Schetky, John Christian (DNB00)

SCHETKY, JOHN CHRISTIAN (1778–1874), marine-painter, fourth son of Johann Georg Christoph Schetky, was born in Ainslie's Close, Edinburgh on 11 Aug. 1778. His father, descended from the ancient Transylvanian family of Von Teschky of Hermannstadt, was a well-known musical composer and violoncellist, who settled in Edinburgh, and died there in 1824, at the age of ninety-five. His mother was Maria Anna Teresa Reinagle, eldest daughter of Joseph Reinagle [q. v.], the musical composer, and sister to Philip Reinagle, R.A. [q. v.] She was an accomplished artist and musician, but excelled chiefly in miniature-painting. Young Schetky was educated at the high school of Edinburgh, where he was a contemporary of Sir Walter Scott, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship. Failing to induce his parents to permit him to enter the navy, he consoled himself by drawing the great vessels in which he had wished to sail, and studied awhile under Alexander Nasmyth [q. v.], but his chief instructors were nature and the works of Willem Van de Velde, like whom he worked with his left hand. When about fifteen he assisted his mother in teaching drawing, and then began to teach on his own account. In the autumn of 1801 he and a friend went to Paris, and walked thence to Rome, where he stayed two months. He returned home early in 1802, and settled at Oxford, where he made many friends and lived for six years. He began to exhibit in 1805 by sending to the Royal Academy ‘A Frigate and the Convoy bearing away in a Gale of Wind,’ and he continued to exhibit there at intervals until 1872. He exhibited also with the Associated Artists in Watercolours from 1808 to 1812. In 1808 he accepted the junior professorship of civil drawing in the Royal Military College at Great Marlow, from which he retired in the spring of 1811, after having spent the Christmas vacation at the seat of war in Portugal, where his brother, John Alexander Schetky [q. v.], was then serving with his regiment. Soon afterwards, in 1811, he was appointed professor of drawing in the Royal Naval College at Portsmouth, where he remained until the dissolution of that establishment in 1836. He then obtained a similar appointment in the military college at Addiscombe, which he held until his retirement in 1855.

He had left the office of marine-painter in ordinary to George IV and William IV, and was reappointed to the post under Queen Victoria in 1844. In that capacity he painted two pictures commemorative of the visit of King Louis-Philippe to her majesty at Portsmouth in October of that year. In 1847 he painted for the Westminster Hall competition the ‘Battle of La Hogue,’ which is now in the collection of the Duke of Bedford at Woburn Abbey. Other notable works by him are ‘The Sinking of H.M.S Royal George at Spithead,’ now in the National Gallery; ‘The Action with the Guillaume Tell,’ painted for the Royal Scottish Academy; ‘The Battle of Trafalgar;’ and ‘The Endymion Frigate relieving a French Man-of-war ashore on a rock-bound Coast,’ now in the United Service Club. He painted likewise twelve views in watercolours as ‘Illustrations of Walter Scott's Lay of the Last Minstrel,’ which were engraved by James Heath, A.R.A., and were published in 1808, and also made the sketches for Lord John Manners's narrative of the Duke of Rutland's ‘Cruise in Scotch Waters,’ 1850. There was also published, in 1867, ‘Reminiscences of the Veterans of the Seas,’ a series of photographs from Schetky's works illustrative of the British navy of bygone times.

Schetky died at 11 Kent Terrace, Regent's Park, London, from an attack of acute bronchitis, on 28 Jan. 1874, in his ninety-sixth year, and was buried in Paddington cemetery. His sympathetic drawings in watercolours and sketches in pen-and-ink of English men-of-war are still highly esteemed. He played the violoncello, flute, and guitar, and sang Scottish ballads and Dibdin's songs with much pathos. A portrait of him, painted by John J. Napier in 1861, is in the possession of his family, and a cabinet portrait, painted by Sir Francis Grant, P.R.A., is in the collection of the Duke of Rutland at Belvoir Castle.

[Ninety Years of Work and Play: Sketches from the Public and Private Career of John Christian Schetky, by his daughter, 1877; Times, 9 Feb. 1874; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists of the English School, 1878; Bryan's Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, ed. Graves and Armstrong, 1886–9, ii. 466; Royal Academy Exhibition Catalogues, 1805–72.]

R. E. G.