Francis Samuel Marryat

Sansome St. 1850, Francis Samuel Marryat, watercolor

Samuel Marryat was born in London in 1821, educated in Paris, and served in the Royal Navy. He was the son of novelist Captain Frederick Marryat whose tales of adventure were popular in Victorian England. While Marryat had no formal training in art, while in the Navy he kept journals and sketchpads and published his first book on leaving the service in 1848 on Borneo and India illustrated with his own wood carvings and lithographs.

Marryat traveled to San Francisco in 1850 on a hunting trip financed from an inheritance from his father, arriving after a fire had destroyed most of the town. For the next two years he made drawings and painted watercolors of San Francisco and kept an illustrated diary recording his journeys hunting and visiting the mining camps. He was called back to England on family business, but returned with his new bride a year later on an ill-fated trip when they both contracted yellow fever. In ill health they soon returned to England where Marryat completed his book on his adventures in California Mountains and Molehills, or Recollections of a Burnt Journal published in 1855. Best known as an illustrator, the twenty-six lithographs based on his drawings from California made this book and Marryat famous. Unfortunately his career was short lived when he died prematurely at age 29 of a ruptured blood vessel.

He is best known as one of the first artists to document in watercolor paintings and drawings the earliest Gold Rush days. The Society of California Pioneers has seven Marryat drawings of San Francisco.


AskArt – Art Database.

Hughes, Edan Milton. 2002. Artists in California 1786-1940. Third Edition. Sacramento: Crocker Art Museum.

Driesbach, Janice T., Harvey L. Jones, and Katherine Church Holland. 1998. Art of the Gold Rush. University of California Press.

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