During the years leading up to the First World War Briscoe was a regular contributor—both in writing and illustration—to The Yachting Monthly
. He used these pages to recount his sailing adventures along the coast of England and in Europe in articles such as "Holland in a Deep Draught Boat".
During the War he received a commission as a Lieutenant in the R.N.V.R., one of his duties being to patrol Scapa Flow. He held command of a Motor Launch (M.L.
) during at least part of his service. During these years he was recognized by The Yachting Monthly
in one of their Our Portrait Study
articles. Briscoe continued to contribute to the magazine throughout the war. After the war he returned to sailing his yacht Golden Vanity
around the southern regions of the North Sea and painting. As well as marine subjects he often painted portraits of friends and neighbours.
In 1922, Briscoe met Captain Stsancowicz who was a master of the Polish sail-training ship Lwöw
, named after the Polish town. Briscoe was invited to join her crew as 'Professor of English' on a journey which took them from Rotherhithe to Fowey and then on to Genoa. Whilst he taught the cadets English sailing terms, he had time to sketch all aspects of life on a square-rigger. On his return home and after a meeting with the etcher James McBey, in 1923 Briscoe returned to etching once more producing plates of some of his sea sketches.
In 1925, Briscoe arranged with Harold Dickens a London publisher, to print editions of 75 of his etchings. He continued to be Briscoe's main publisher for the next 10 years. Dickens sold Briscoe's work to the New York market (apparently through the gallery of Arthur Ackermann & Son) and thus helped his name to become international. Critics of the time called him a 'salt-water' artist par excellence and that no-one could portray the life, the men and the work as he could.
Alex Hurst, in his book Arthur Briscoe—Marine Artist—His Life and Work
, points out that Briscoe had of course "seen many a square-rigger at sea and been aboard plenty in docks and harbour... Certainly it is quite incredible that a man who spent so limited a time at sea in such vessels, and none whatever in the hard weather of the high latitudes: the heavy water on deck; the whole feel of a barque flying before a gale, and such matters with such accuracy" (p.58). Briscoe's accuracy seems to have come from his sketchbooks and all the notes he made of every aspect of working life at sea. He also kept a model of a square rigger in his studios at all times to check that everything he depicted in the boats was correct.
In 1927, after divorcing his first wife, Briscoe married Alice Baker, one of his life models. They moved to London and spent summer holidays in St. Mawes, Cornwall. Briscoe acquired an 18ft lugger which he used to sail in Falmouth bay where he made many sketches of the tall ships arriving from Australia. In 1929 he made another voyage on a square rigger, the barque Alstor
, but there is little evidence of sketches made on this trip.
In the 1930s, Briscoe's work was greatly sought after and in Brussels an exhibition of marine art dedicated a whole room to his work. In 1933, his mother died and he came into a large inheritance. He moved to Walton-on-Naze in East Anglia and other than a short spell in Brixham, Devon, during the war, there he remained until his wife died.
Further reading:Arthur Briscoe—Marine Artist —His Life and Works
by Alix Hurst