SHORT, RICHARD, naval officer and topographical draughtsman; fl. before 1754 to after 1766.
Nothing is known of Richard Short’s naval career except the vessels in which he served: Baltimore (a sloop), Peregrine (a sloop built in 1749), Mermaid (a frigate, which he appears to have left before she sailed for Nova Scotia in 1754), Gibraltar (a frigate), and four ships of the line, Leopard (built in 1756), Prince of Orange, Dublin (which returned from the West Indies in 1763), and Neptune. After this service at sea he was appointed to the Chatham dockyard, England. Though the list of ships does not indicate extensive service for Short in North America, the Prince of Orange brought him there in the fleet accompanying Wolfe’s forces in 1759.
With Hervey Smyth* Short was one of the first English military artists to record the Canadian scene. In the days before photography, drawing lessons formed a regular part of the training of officers. Military topographical artists were active throughout the period when British forces were stationed in Canada.
Short is known for two sets of views, which were engraved by various hands after sketches he made in Canada; the engravings were published in London in 1761. One set consists of six views of Halifax. These, including views of the harbour and the Citadel, the governor’s house and St Paul’s Church, seem to have been engraved after paintings which the marine artist Dominique Serres had made from Short’s drawings. The other set, of Quebec, was apparently engraved directly from the drawings. It is entitled (on a rare copy of the wrapper now in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto) “Twelve views of the principal buildings in Quebec, from drawings, taken on the spot, at the command of Vice-Admiral [Charles Saunders*] by Richard Short, purser of his majesty’s ship the Prince of Orange.”
The Quebec views form a unique record of the appearance of that city immediately after the naval bombardment of 1759. But as the original drawings have not come to light, and as the London engraver inevitably altered the scale, perspective, and details of the buildings, the accuracy of representation leaves something to be desired. Thus the little square before the church of Notre-Dame-des-Victoires appears much larger than it is, and the intendant’s and bishop’s palaces and the Jesuit college somewhat grander than they actually were. Yet the general character of these latter and of other lost buildings of Quebec seems to be conveyed. The interiors of the Jesuit and Recollet churches – our only records of them – are true to what is known of them from documents and from churches of the same period in France. But above all it is the wide extent of war damage that is most striking in the engravings – damage which was all neatly repaired by the time Thomas Davies* and his contemporaries painted Quebec a generation later.
In addition to the above engravings, Short is known for views of naval engagements, engraved as a series by Caroline Watson and published by Boydell in London.
ASQ, Album 1G (1761 edition of the 12 engravings of Quebec). Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto), Sigmund Samuel Collection. Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenken Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, ed. Ulrich Thieme, et al. (37v., Leipzig, 1907–50), XXX, 576. “Les estampes de Richard Short,” BRH, XXIV (1918), 279–80. M. H. Grant, A dictionary of British landscape painters from the 16th century to the early 20th century (Leigh-on-Sea, Eng., 1952), 176. J. Russell Harper, Painting in Canada; a history (Toronto, 1966), 41, 429, pl.30. Isaac Schomberg, Naval chronology; or an historical summary of naval and maritime events, from the time of the Romans to the treaty of peace, 1802 (5v., London, 1802). F. St. G. Spendlove, The face of early Canada; pictures of Canada which have helped to make history (Toronto, 1958), 8–9, 11–12, pl.3–15, 22–27.