James Hamilton (1819-1878) was born in Belfast, Ireland and immigrated to the U.S. in 1834 at age 15. Hamilton was a follower of James Mallord William Turner, a leading painter of English Romanticism in the 19th century. Hamilton was primarily known for his dramatic seascapes, inspired by shoreline from New York to Maryland.
Dangerous Shore is a good example of Romantic landscape painting. Its fascination with natural phenomenon like weather, the tragic subject of a shipwreck, interest in exotic locales, and celebration of the destructive power and beauty of nature are all qualities found in Romantic art. Its dramatic lighting and vigorous brushwork are also hallmarks of Romantic painting.
Hamilton wrote lines from the fourth canto of Lord Byron’s epic poem, The Island on the back of the piece. The lines read:
“A Haunt of Birds, a desert to mankind…
A spot to make the saved regret the deck
which late went down and envy the lost wreck.”
Hamilton was known for writing extensive information on the back of his works and gaining inspiration from literary sources.