Philip Ouless

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Philip Ouless



Philip Ouless (1817–1885) was Jersey's most celebrated marine painter, and the only one of the trio of famous 19th century 'Jersey' artists - the others were Jean Le Capelain and John Everett Millais - who was actually born in the island. The son of an auctioneer, his grandparents emigrated from Coutances, Normandy to escape the French Revolution and Philip was born in St Helier

This sketch of St Aubin’s Bay was made in September 1873. The sketch shows St Matthew's Church and the windmill and coastal tower at Bel Royal. The windmill has long since disappeared, the coastal tower was blown up by the Germans during the Occupation, but the church remains and is now usually known as the 'Glass Church', because of the magnificent collection of Lalique glass which was used when the interior was refurbished. There were almost no buildings on the shoreline between Millbrook and Saint Aubin in the distance. Today, from the church westwards there is an almost unbroken line of buildings
This is said to be Jersey's oldest surviving photograph: An 1845 daguerreotype in the collection of La Société Jersiaise. It has been attributed to Philip Ouless and described as a self-portrait. While Ouless may well have taken the photograph - he advertised a portraiture service in the same year - it cannot be a self-portrait. He was 28 years old at the time and all portraits of him show him as thin in the face.

Paris studies

Philip John Ouless studied painting in Paris, then 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 19th-century boom in shipbuilding. As well as the new paddle steamers, Ouless painted early racing yachts.

Ouless’ 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.

Ouless advertises his new portrait service in 1845


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, suggested to be Ouless himself, was found in a collection of his son, Clarence Ouless's photographs given to La Société Jersiaise in 2006, and is believed to be Jersey's oldest surviving photograph. Because he was only 28 at the time, this cannot, as has been suggested, be a self-portrait of Philip Ouless

The daguerreotype, together with some unexposed plates of similar vintage, was in an envelope which is thought to bear Clarence Ouless's handwriting.

No other photographs taken by Philip Ouless are known to have survived, 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.

1971 Jersey stamp
A passport issued to Philippe Ouless and his wife by the Constable of St Helier in 1840 ...
... and one issued by the British Consul in St Malo in 1843 ...
... and one from 1844 which has the stamps to prove what a regular traveller Philippe Ouless was

Family tree


This gallery contains a large collection of Ouless works - click on any image to see a full-size version. Other Ouless works can be found by following the three links above

Jersey Heritage acquisition

In 2021 this collection of watercolours and one oil painting by Ouless was acquired from a private seller, at half market price, by Jersey Heritage. These are the originals of some of the etchings published in 1860 by Ouless in a book of views of Jersey

Jersey farmhouse

Maritime paintings

Les Ecrehous

Ouless made several trips to Les Ecréhous not long before he died, to sketch and paint the offshore islets

Miscellaneous subjects

Sketches from albums in the possession of Jersey Archive

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