1823 - 1909
Prayer for Those in Peril at Sea

Oil on canvas, monogrammed lower left and inscribed on reverse
Image size: 20 x 24 inches (51 x 61 cm)
Original gilt frame

Mrs. Georgina Gale (Artists Widow)
Bristol, Bristol Art Gallery, A collection of paintings by William Gale, January 1914, no. 12
Private collection


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William Gale exhibited a number of charming genre scene’s in the Pre-Raphaelite style, of which the present is an exquisite example.

This work has a strong nautical theme as suggested by the title. Through the small window at the back of this interior room we glimpse the sea, seemingly calm and peaceful. Despite its appearance, the threat of sea is reminded to us with the poster over the bed inscribed with the phrase ‘Man Overboard’. This is cleverly echoed by the toy sail boat that lies at an angle, tipped to one side on the bedcovers. As we examine this image of boy and mother one can also identify a picture mounted on the wall of a man in a sailors uniform and it becomes clear that the father of the family is currently away from home chancing his fate on the treacherous seas.

It is likely that the title of this piece was taken from a poem written by William Whiting in 1860. Whiting, originally from Winchester, was a student who was about to set sail for the United States when he wrote the poem that contained the refrain ‘Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee, For those in peril on the sea!’. Many pre-Raphaelite paintings were inspired by famous poems and stories.

It is true that the threat of shipwreck, and the life and death situations faced by the fishermen, inspired the artists of this period, but the hard lives and sorrows of the womenfolk also touched them deeply.


William Gale

William Gale was a British painter of the pre-Raphaelite school.

Gale was born in London, in 1823. He was educated at the Grammar School, Brompton; and on completing his ordinary studies there, became, for a short time, a pupil in the Art-academy of Mr. Sass, in Bloomsbury. In 1841 he was enrolled a student of the Royal Academy, and had awarded to him, in 1844, a silver medal, with the lectures of Professors Barry, Opie, and Fuseli, for the best copy in the School of Painting; and another silver medal for the best drawing from the living model. In 1845 his name again appears in the list of those who were the recipients of prizes: a silver medal and the same series of lectures being awarded him for the best drawing in chalk from the living model.

He exhibited annually at the Royal Academy 1844–93, but was never elected a member. He exhibited regularly at the British Institution and at the Royal Society of British Artists.

In this year, 1851, Mr. Gale, having married, chose Italy for his wedding-tour, where he remained some time studying the works of the old masters, especially in Rome: in the year following he sent home for the Academy Exhibition An Italian Girl, painted with the finish of a miniature.

In the autumn of 1862 Mr. Gale visited the Holy Land, making Jerusalem his head-quarters. The journey evidently turned the current of his Art-conceptions, for from this period commenced the series of pictures of Eastern life and sacred subjects which have formed the staple of his subsequent labours. A second visit to the same deeply interesting country in 1867, when he located himself principally at Nazareth and Tiberias, confirmed him in the course he had taken

With other fellow artists, he was a member of the 38th Middlesex (Artists’) Rifle Volunteers raised in 1860. In which he held a captain’s commission.

He was a prolific artist; his output included sentimental, biblical and mythological subjects, and portraits and Orientalist pictures. There are examples of his work in the Tate Gallery, in the Glasgow Museums Resource Centre, and in the Art Gallery of New South Wales.