Paul Wright RSMA was recently commissioned by Mall Galleries visitor, David Murwill, to paint HMS Blencathra. Mall Galleries caught up with both of them to discuss the amazing history of a ship that served an important role in World War Two, the process of commissioning maritime and naval works, and the challenges of painting a vessel which no longer exists.

HMS Blencathra (L24) was a Royal Navy Hunt Class Destroyer. She was ordered under the 1939 Emergency Built Programme, with the brief that British warships required new anti-air and anti-submarine weapons. The Hunt Class destroyers were a class of World War Two escort vessel, built for convoys in British waters and the Mediterranean. Named after a fox hunt in Cumberland, presumably due to the fleet-footedness of foxes, and the fast pace of fox hunting, these ‘Hunt Class’ destroyers were speedy, easily maneuverable long-endurance warships, which escorted and defended larger vessels as they voyaged across the waves. Regrettably, the ship was scrapped in 1957 after being sold to the British Iron and Steel Cooperation, yet her rich history persists.

David Murwill’s father served as a Radio Operator on HMS Blencathra between 1942-6. After seeing the picture, Penguin in High Seas, a desire was kindled in David to commission a similar painting of the Blencathra. The final catalyst which prompted the commission was the passing of a friend of David’s father, who had been one of the few surviving crew members from HMS Blencathra.

Unsure where to start with the commissions process, David found the naval and maritime artworks of Paul Wright on Mall Galleries’ website; “I felt his work was close to what I wanted to achieve”, David says. Mall Galleries Art Consultant, Anna Bromwich, promptly put David in touch with Paul to exchange ideas and sources. As the ship had been scrapped, Paul had little to work with other than David’s memories of conversations with his father, letters, and a few grainy wartime photos of the Blencathra in her heyday. The artist conducted his own research, looking at plans and written accounts of HMS Blencathra and the Hunt-Class Destroyers. “Paul provided two pencil sketches of what he proposed”, David says; “I liked them so much that I commissioned both! One is acrylic with the Blencathra in heavy seas with a stormy sky, and the other is a larger oil painting, depicting her in convoy.”

HMS Blecanthra by Paul Wright RSMA

The process took fifteen months in total, and David is very pleased with the outcome: “Paul did not disappoint - the final result is excellent!” Paul also found the experience fascinating and enjoyable, saying “I knew little about this class of warship prior to this project - now I know a lot more!’

Through this commission, the amazing wartime history of HMS Blencathra has been successfully preserved in paint for David, and for future generations to discover.

Find out more about Mall Galleries' Marine Commissions