Ouless sketch of St Aubin's Bay
Philip Ouless 1817–1885
Philip John Ouless was one of the most celebrated marine painters of Jersey, the son of an auctioneer. His grandparents emigrated from Coutances, Normandy to escape the French Revolution and Philip was born in St Helier in 1817. He studied painting in Paris but returned to St Helier where he established himself as a marine, landscape and portrait painter. He received numerous commissions from ship owners and masters, benefiting from the nineteenth century boom in shipbuilding. As well as the new paddle steamers, Ouless painted early racing yachts.
Ouless’s views of Jersey were engraved and sold to the increasing number of visitors to the island. He recorded the visit of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to Jersey in 1846 in eleven watercolours, which were published the following year. Ouless also recorded a number of events, particularly shipwrecks, which were reproduced in the Illustrated London News. He died at 53 New Street, St Helier in 1885. His son Walter Ouless RA (1848-1933) became a portrait painter. Walter's daughter Catherine (1879-1961) was also an accomplished artist.
The work of Philip John Ouless is represented in the Jersey Museum, St Helier and the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.
Philip Ouless was not only an accomplished artist, but he was a pioneering photographer, introducing the daguerrotype process to the island in 1845 after a visit to France, during which he received instructions from the first pupil of Louis Daguerre, who invented the process which created the first permanent photographs in 1839. There had been a demonstration of daguerreotypes in Jersey the following year.
The process, which produced a one-off image on a silvered plate, was the first photographic process in general circulation. It was widely used for commercial portraiture in the 1840s but could not survive the development of paper-based photographs which could be produced an unlimited number of times from negatives. The daguerrotype photograph of Ouless himself was found in a collection of his son, Clarence Ouless's photographs given to La Société Jersiaise in 2006, and is Jersey's oldest surviving photograph. It is not known whether it is a self portrait or was taken by one of his contemporaries, Henry Mullins. Clarence Ouless bought the complete collection of Mullins' negatives after his death, but the daguerreotype, together with some unexposed plates of similar vintage, was in an envelope which is thought to bear Clarence Ouless's handwriting, and if the date when it was taken was 1845, this was three years before Mullins set up in business in Jersey, using the calotype photographic process, which used negatives to produce paper prints.
No other photographs of or by Philip Ouless survive, but it is unlikely that an artist of his standing would have failed to attract business with the advertisement he placed in 1845 offering his new portrait service.
- Descendants of Philippe Joseph Oulez Added 2016