Danby was the second son of the celebrated landscape painter Francis Danby (1793-1861). Unlike his younger brother Thomas, James followed his father’s style closely. He specialised in views of the Thames and often painted at specific times of day or night so that he could display his virtuosity in rendering effects of light. He was a constant exhibitor in the Royal Academy from 1842 until his death, and also at the British Institution and at the Society of British Artists, of which he was a member. He practised his profession mainly in London but seems to have visited Ireland, as several of his exhibited works were of Irish landscapes.
This scene depicts dawn with the crescent moon still visible. Corporation Island can be seen in the distance, now fully wooded and home to a colony of herons.