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Painting of Mid-Atlantic Battle Between American & British Ship for Bonhams Marine Art Auction

An engagement between an American and a British naval vessel during the War of 1812 by Derek Gardner is estimated to sell for £30,000 to £50,000 at Bonhams next auction of Marine Art on September 15th in New Bond Street, London.


The painting depicts the action shortly before the ‘Macedonian’s’ main topmast went over the side in Mid Atlantic on October 12th 1812. The USS United States has her sails on the main aback to heave the ship to and prevent her running ahead of the disabled ‘Macedonian’.

Derek Gardner was a self-taught British artist who meticulously planned and researched all his pictures, resulting in works exhibiting amazing attention to detail. ‘I’m never in a hurry’, he said, aged 90. ‘Fools, after all, rush in’. He was elected a member of the Royal Society of Marine artists in 1966.

Gardner was a member of the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve from 1934-1946, and served with distinction most notably in the destroyer HMS Broke, where he was appointed anti-submarine officer.

For the Anglo-American landings at Algiers, in 1942, HMS Broke was ordered to make a frontal attack on the harbour, seize the port installations and shipping and land the American troops it was carrying. Under heavy fire, HMS Broke charged the harbour boom at 25 knots and crashed through to disembark her troops.

Once the troops were ashore, she withdrew but sustained many hits and eventually sank on her way to the safe port of Gibraltar. Her survivors were picked up by the destroyer HMS Zetland. Gardner was mentioned in dispatches for distinguished service in this action, but lost the hearing in one ear due to the concussion waves from the intense gunfire. In 1943, he joined the destroyer HMS Highlander for the pivotal Battle of the Atlantic. He retired from the Navy in 1946 with the rank of Commander.

Gardner joined the Colonial Service at the end of 1946 and was posted to Kenya as a civil engineer. Here he started to paint more seriously and began showing his work at the Kenya Arts Society in Nairobi and had two pictures exhibited at the Royal Society of Marine Artists in London. Unfortunately in 1962, he lost the hearing in his one good ear due to a bout of tick typhus but in the following year he retired to England (Corfe) with his wife Mary and turned to marine painting full time. He enjoyed considerable success at his many exhibitions in London.

Examples of his work are held in the permanent collections of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich and the Bermuda Maritime Museum and in many private collections in the U.K. and U.S.A. He was painting right up to his death in 2007, aged 93.

Another sailor artist to feature in this sale is John Chancellor who was born to English parents in the Lisbon area of Portugal in 1925. At seventeen he joined the Merchant Navy and was twice torpedoed.

After the war he worked for a tug and barge firm and skippered a number of coastal craft. In 1963 he moved to Brixham, Devon, started painting in 1970 and two years later, he decided to give up the sea to become a professional artist. He specialised in scenes of historic sail, well-researched and in a very finished style. In 1973 his first one-man show of oils sold out in 45 minutes and his next in 1976 also sold out. His exhibition of watercolours in 1981 sold out in ten minutes. He lived in Brixham, South Devon and his book ‘The Maritime Paintings of John Chancellor’ was published posthumously in July 1984.

Alistair Laird, Head of Marine Pictures at Bonhams, says: “Due to his very short painting career, his output totalled fewer than 70 oil paintings, his paintings are in great demand. Such is the popularity of his work that only a handful of works have ever gone through auction, apeople tend to hang onto them. So we are delighted to be offering no fewer than eight paintings of his collected by a private enthusiast of his work, the largest collection of works by Chancellor ever to be offered at auction.”