Over the course of the eighteenth century, Britain vied with its main rivals—Holland, Spain, and France—for dominion of the seas. From thundering naval engagements to tranquil coastal scenes; from stormy shipwrecks to detailed views of working life in dockyards and on rivers; and from native shores to the farthest reaches of the globe, marine painting helped to tell the stories of the nation’s successes and disasters. Spreading Canvas surveys this genre as it developed in tandem both with the British maritime empire and with the art world of eighteenth-century London, where artists such as Peter Monamy, Samuel Scott, Dominic Serres, and Nicholas Pocock exhibited their work alongside history paintings, portraits, and landscapes. By examining marine paintings within a context that includes preparatory sketches, letters, and spectacular ship models, Spreading Canvas illuminates the artistry involved in their making and recovers the meanings they conveyed to eighteenth-century viewers. Illustrated with a wealth of beautifully reproduced images, Spreading Canvas reveals that, from the age of tapestries to the advent of the modern panorama, marine painting was a vital and engaging part of British culture.