Portrait of Sir Richard Pearson
Mezzotint after Grignon

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Sir Richard Pearson
Charles Grignion (1754-1804) (artist)
James Watson (c. 1740-1790) (engraver)
Sir Richard Pearson
John Boydell, London: 1780
Mezzotint, uncolored, on laid paper, proof before title
14 3/4 x 11 inches, sheet
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Portrait of Sir Richard Pearson (1731-1806), who led a convoy of British ships during a pivotal North Sea naval battle during the American Revolutionary War on September 23, 1779. It was during this battle that Pearson called out to American commander John Paul Jones and asked if Jones had had enough and Jones famously replied, "I have not yet begun to fight!" This may be a proof before title, i.e. an inscription may have been added to later printings.

Jones was captain of the Bonhomme Richard and leader of an American and French fleet raiding English shipping routes. He engaged in battle with Captain Pearson's frigate Serapis in the North Sea off Flamborough Head near Yorkshire, England. The fierce battle took place at night and resulted in heavy losses of men and ships on both sides. When Pearson finally surrendered, the Bonhomme Richard was literally sinking beneath Jones and his crew, forcing them to move onto the Serapis the next day, a highly unusual and possibly unique event: to have a victorious captain lose his own ship and return to port in a captured vessel. Jones' raids and his victory at Flamborough Head boosted American military credibility and helped turn British public opinion against the war, forcing the government to seek a peaceful resolution. In triumphing in battle against one of the world's great naval powers, American sailors would never again be underestimated. Pearson's valor was nonetheless recognized by the British public, as is evident in this portrait made in the year following the battle.

Charles Grignion was a British history and portrait painter who studied at the Royal Academy. Several of his portraits are in the collection of England's National Portrait Gallery. He was the nephew of another prominent artist, also named Charles Grignion.

James Watson was born in Ireland, then settled in London, where he learned engraving. He became one of the leading mezzotint engravers of the day, including 56 plates after the paintings of Joshua Reynolds. The majority of his work was for Sayer, Boydell and other printsellers but he published some plates himself. Watson exhibited at the Society of Artists from 1762 to 1775.

References:

"Charles Grignion." The Thames & Hudson Dictionary of Art and Artists. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd.: 1994. Online at http://www.xrefer.com/entry/651219 (21 May 2002).

"John Paul Jones: A Founder of the U.S. Navy." The United States Navy. http://www.chinfo.navy.mil/navpalib/traditions/html/jpjones.html (21 May 2002).

Maxted, Ian. "The London book trades 1775-1800: a preliminary checklist of members." Exeter Working Papers in British Book Trade History. 2001. http://www.devon.gov.uk/library/locstudy/bookhist/lonw.html (7 May 2002).

"Prints and drawings catalogue." National Maritime Museum, London. The museum owns a copy of this print (PAG6451) and an another print derived from the Grignion portrait (PAD3095). The latter print is pictured on their web site. http://www.nmm.ac.uk/ (15 December 2002).

"War at Sea: John Paul Jones at Flamborough Head.." Newport News, VA: The Mariners Museum. 2000. http://www.mariner.org/usnavy/03/03c.htm (21 May 2002).


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