Claude Muncaster (1903-1974)

Claude Grahame Muncaster, RWS ROI RBA SMA was the son of Oliver Hall RA. He was born Grahame Hall (his father was the Royal Academician Oliver Hall, who taught his son to paint from an early age) but adopted the name Claude Muncaster in 1922, hoping to strike out on his own and dissociate his career from that of his father.

His career as a landscape painter began when he was fifteen; he spent the 1920s and 30s travelling the world with his sketchbook by boat. Muncaster’s primary choice of subject matter came from a genuine love of the sea. He made several long-distance sea voyages, including one around the Horn as a deckhand in the windjammer Olivebank in 1931, which he described in ‘Rolling Round the Horn’, published in 1933. Armed with a sketchbook, his aim was to be able to ‘paint ships and the sea with greater authority’.  This he certainly achieved, perfectly capturing the limpid first light of morning over the Port of Aden, the choppy rain-grey waters of the Bay of Biscay and a streak of sunlight through gathering storm clouds at dusk in Exeter.  He became an Associate of the Royal Watercolour Society in 1931 and was a founder member, and later President, of the Royal Society of Marine Artists.

When the Second World War broke out, Muncaster joined the Royal Naval Reserves, training as a navigator before going on to advise on the camouflage of ships. He also worked as an official war artist. In ‘Still Morning at Aden’ (1944) he depicts Allied warships in this safe anchorage in the Middle East; the back is stamped with Admiralty approval.

In 1946-7 he was commissioned by the Queen to produce watercolours of the royal residences (some of which are available below); the Duke of Edinburgh, in a foreword to a biography of Muncaster, recalls looking at these and considering the artist’s ‘unerring instinct for a subject’, his sense of atmosphere. Other commissions included large panoramas of the Thames and of Bradford. His career also included work as an etcher, illustrator, writer, lecturer and broadcaster, and his paintings can be found in the Royal Academy, Tate, National Maritime Museum Cornwall, National Railway Museum and Royal Air Force Museum. He was a frequent guest at Sandringham for the rest of his life.


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