London: Quercus, 2007.
Willis is an acknowledged expert in the naval technology of the Napoleonic era, but he turns out to have a good eye for art, as well. Not only that, this volume (the middle of a trilogy) is folio-sized, so all the full-page reproductions of paintings and technical drawings and battle plans are at a scale that shows off important detail — far more so than I have seen in smaller books.
While modern painters like Geoff Hunt are included, most of the artists either were contemporaries of the period or belonged to the immediately following generation. Some, like Nicholas Pocock, actually had been sailors or naval officers, and they knew what they were doing when it cam to depicting naval warfare. On the other hand, many of the scenes included are what the Victorians called “history paintings,” which were expected to combine historical accuracy with artistic conventions and the teaching of a moral. The sometimes lengthy captions Willis provides makes it clear when they were successful in this and when they were not. A gorgeous book, but you’ll have problems finding a place to shelve it.