Michael Angelo Rooker, A.R.A. 25 March 1746? - 1801
The North Foreland Lighthouse, Kent
Photo: R.A.
© Royal Academy of Arts, London
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The North Foreland Lighthouse, Kent, 1780
pencil and watercolour on laid paper, 229 X 387 mm
Given by Mrs Augusta Thackeray, 21 June 1865
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Michael Rooker was born in London, the son of the engraver and actor Edward Rooker (1724 - 1774). During the 1760s he worked with his father while studying with, and perhaps assisting, Paul Sandby. By the end of the decade he had come to be known by the humorous nickname Sandby had given him: Michael 'Angelo' Rooker. In 1769 Rooker enrolled at the Royal Academy Schools and was elected Associate Academician the following year, although he never progressed to the rank of Academician.

This watercolour shows the North Foreland lighthouse near Broadstairs in Kent. The lighthouse was built in 1691 and still stands although it was substantially altered during the eighteenth century. Rooker's composition, placing the tower on the right facing a foreboding expanse of darkening cloud and showing tiny figures scattered along the cliff top, skilfully evokes the atmosphere of the windswept coastline and highlights the importance of the lighthouse in severe weather conditions. The same location was also depicted by other watercolourists including Samuel Hieronymous Grimm, J. M. W. Turner and James Malton.