Hely Smith

British, b.1862, d.1941

The Fog Horn

  • 1896
  • Oil on canvas
  • Presented by the Canterbury Society of Arts, 1932
  • 1152 x 1304 x 100mm
  • 69/574

The colossal shape of a sailing vessel lurches out of the dense dark fog and bears down on a collision course with a small fishing boat. Danger is ever present on the open sea and Hely Smith has certainly conjured up a sense of impending peril in The Fog Horn. The sense of vulnerability is palpable as these three sailors with their small boat and inadequate ship’s lantern try to avoid calamity. One of the sailors blows the horn as loud as he can while his companion waves out, hoping to make their presence known.

(Ship Nails and Tail Feathers, 10 June – 22 October 2023)

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • As the moods and images of the sea are ever-changing, the marine painter needs to use a different approach from the landscape artist. In this work Smith has ably captured the mood of the marine-scape as the vessels are caught in the fog and the sound of the mournful foghorn reminds the mariners that collision and calamity are ever present.

    Smith who was a specialist in marine and shipping subjects, began his art studies at Lincoln School of Art and followed this with some time as a student at the Antwerp Academy, Belgium. Although he lived most of his life in London, he often painted in Europe. He began exhibiting in 1890 so this is an early work, and painted in a less impressionistic style than those he later painted in the 1920s.

    Although he also painted portraits and flowers, Smith's interest in ships was very strong and as well as painting he was well-regarded as a model maker. This accuracy and attention to the details of ships is well demonstated here. The Fog Horn was purchased by the Canterbury Society of Arts in 1903 and remained in their collection until 1996 when it was acquired for this Gallery.

    (Label date unknown)