Robert Salmon marine painting
‘The Frigate William Fell off Greenock’ by Robert Salmon that sold for £79,000 at Mitchells’ auction in Cockermouth.

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Although Salmon (1775-1858) is often considered an American marine artist (he emigrated to Boston in 1820), he was born in Whitehaven – the Cumbrian port where this painting was found as part of an otherwise very modest deceased estate.

Housed in its original gilt frame, the 2ft 3in x 3ft 8in (68cm x 1.14m) canvas was in original condition and, according to auctioneer Mark Wise, “unlikely to have been touched since the day it was painted” 202 years ago. Requiring only a small amount of restoration work to minor areas of paint loss, it also promised a spectacular clean.

English Setting

Salmon’s English period paintings are typically more modestly priced than those completed in North America but the conservative estimate of just £5000-8000 ensured significant international interest at the auction on September 9. 

The buyer was a US private collector who already owns another two paintings by Salmon. “He just calmly waited for all the other bidders to drop out before he started bidding,” Wise added. “There are always surprises in any auction but this is a real highlight for me in my career.”

Mitchell’s previous house record was the £52,000 set last year by an early 17th century
English portrait.

The buyer’s premium was 20%.