Eugène Isabey was a deeply Romantic painter. His work during the 1820s and 1830s is characterised by a concern with the unpredictable nature of the elements, the response of the individual to nature, and a refined, vigorous application of paint that emphasised the artist’s hand.
Storm with a Shipwreck is one of Isabey’s key Romantic seascapes. He depicts the sea as an abstract force that has the power to annihilate man and his work – our attention is drawn to the corpse of a sailor and part of the wreck of his ship in the lower corner. The violent sea and clouds and the dark, ominous rocky outcrop suggest a place of absolute danger. In this way, Isabey invokes the sublime, which was so closely associated with the sea: the sea as a space of imminent threat and an incomprehensible infinitude. Isabey’s application of paint matches the subject of work; each is as theatricalised and energetic as the other.