The Death of Nelson

Daniel Maclise1859/1864

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
Liverpool, United Kingdom

This painting is a version of Maclise’s fresco in the House of Lords, commissioned as part of a scheme to redecorate the Houses of Parliament in the mid-19th century. Maclise captures the moment of Nelson’s fatal injury aboard the quarter deck of The Victory. The bullet which struck him came from The Redoubtable, seen tangled in the English rigging in the background of the painting. Nelson is lying in the centre of this panoramic composition, propped in the arms of his favourite, Captain Hardy. Other figures near Nelson include Dr Beattie, Lieutenant Ram, Captain Adair and Sergeant Secker. Surrounding these men are a multitude of other characters all locked in their own drama. Maclise researched the subject carefully. He spoke to survivors from the Battle of Trafalgar and included redundant naval equipment to make his painting as authentic as possible.


  • Title: The Death of Nelson
  • Creator: Daniel Maclise
  • Creator Lifespan: 1806/1870
  • Creator Nationality: Irish
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Death Place: London, England
  • Creator Birth Place: Cork, Ireland
  • Date Created: 1859/1864
  • tag / style: Daniel Maclise; Death of Nelson; The Victory; Trafalgar; History painting; battle; The Redoubtable; Captain Hardy; Dr Beattie; Lieutenant Ram; Captain Adair; Sergeant Secker; ship; navy
  • subject: Trafalgar
  • Physical Dimensions: w35300 x h9850 cm (Without frame)
  • Artist biographical information: Daniel Maclise was a painter whose talent and charm won him patrons and friends in the Irish and English intellectual and literary world. He initially trained in the Cork Institute of Arts and became involved in the revival of Irish culture. He launched his career as a portrait painter in Ireland after the success of his portrait of the novelist Sir Walter Scott who visited Cork in 1825. Maclise moved to London in 1827 and entered the Royal Academy schools in 1828. As a student he supported himself first through portraiture and then as a subject painter. In 1831 he won a gold medal in the Royal Academy's competition for history painting with 'The Choice of Hercules', now in a private collection. From the 1830s onwards much of Maclise's work was based on historical, literary and Shakespearean themes and had a strong emphasis on gestures, expressions and details. Later on his historical work became less concerned with realistic details and took a much more symbolic and grand tone. The most important point in Maclise's career was in 1844/1845 when he was commissioned to decorate part of the House of Lords with two paintings, 'The Spirit of Chivalry' and 'The Spirit of Justice'. This was at a time of Queen Victoria's reign when public art was a means of celebrating the history and achievements of Britain, inspired by analogous schemes abroad, especially in Germany.
  • Additional artwork information: Maclise's 'The Death of Nelson' was the subject of an 'Artwork Highlight' talk in 2000. To read the notes from this talk, please follow this link: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/picture-of-month/displaypicture.asp?venue=2&id=37 'The Death of Nelson' was also the subject of a Spotlight Display in 2005. To explore this further, please follow this link: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/walker/collections/nelsoninfocus/
  • Type: Oil on canvas
  • Rights: Purchased in 1892

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