HMS AGAMEMNON at Portland

. Watercolour signed Frank Wood and dated 1912.

HMS AGAMEMNON at Portland

14 x 4.3 inches (36 x 11 cms) approx

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The Pre-Dreadnought battleship HMS AGAMEMNON (Captain Arthur Hayes-Sadler CSI RN) was a member of the 2nd Division Home Fleet and shortly before this 1912 watercolour was painted had received their Lordships' unwelcome attention when she had grounded on an uncharted rock whilst entering Ferrol, Spain in February 1911: bottom plates, bilge keels and of course, pride, were damaged and Form S232 (Report of collisions and groundings) was no doubt rendered  - but it wasnt too serious it seems!  Now a year later she is seen at anchor in Portland Naval Base, Dorset and appears to be firing a gun salute: meanwhile a little TBD scurries past to port on her way out past Charlie Head and into Weymouth Bay.  Is she perhaps carrying someone of importance to whom AGAMEMNON's gun salute is addressed?

This little painting is classic Watson Wood of the period when he was executing more gentle watercolours with flattish, tranquil seas and pale, hinted at, detail: such studies are arguably amongst his best and periodically, it seems, he had bouts of painting in this sketchy style alternating with more assertive, more intensely coloured works.  With the watercolour is a card, written in Wood's own hand, which reads" HMS AGAMEMNON at Portland...To Capt & Mrs France-Hayhurst....With Best Wishes, Xmas 1912  from Mr & Mrs Frank Wood".   But Captain France-Hayhurst was not in command of AGAMEMNON (the obvious and likely recipient of such a painting) - was he perhaps KHM (King's Harbour Master) of Portland who had given Wood permission to paint in the naval base and was now being thanked by the Woods to whom KHM and his wife had also given lunch?

All Wood's favourite trademarks are here: a naval pinnace (recently lowered by AGAMEMNON?) heads shorewards over on the left; a ketch is sauntering along in front of the battleship; an auxilliary harbour craft bustles in on her way in  from sea; and a maroon sailed barge is pottering over towards the breakwater on the right.  And just to put this into chronological perspective, 1912 is the year TITANIC went down and the Great War is but two years away....