Nautical painter. The Belgian artist Paul-Jean Clays was born in Brugge (Bruges) on November 20, 1817. From a very young age he was attracted to the sea, rivers, and canals and wanted to become a sailor, but his father sent him to a boarding school in the French port city of Boulogne. His attraction for the sea ultimately overcame his studies, and he became a cabin boy on a coastal cruiser. Upon his return to Bruges, Clays noted down his nautical impressions in the form of drawings. A book of drawings dating back to 1838 bears witness to his dexterity. Clays studied in Paris under Horace Vernet and Theodore Gudin and then settled in Brussels in 1839. That year he presented an impressive series of seascapes at the Brussels show including among others The Thames and Calais Roadstead. At the Antwerp show in 1840 he presented Disappearance of the English Three-Master “Douglas” off the Coast of Fecamps. In 1841 Clays applied for the post of official painter on board a ship of the royal navy. His application was successful, and that same year he set sail on a cutter escorting the huge yacht Marie-Louise on her excursions in the North Sea. During this journey he visited England and the Shetland Islands. Clays's seafaring lasted almost eight months and gave birth to a certain number of important works, notably several representations of Marie-Louise. Following a journey to Portugal he presented in 1845 Alfendega in Algarve, Portugal and “La Catarina”: Portuguese Boat in Distress in Sight of a French Fleet. In 1848 at the Brussels show he presented Yarmouth Bay and Leith Roadstead near Edinburgh.
From The Oxford Encyclopedia of Maritime History in Oxford Reference.
Subjects: Maritime History.