Ian W. Toll gives us a palatable insight into the historical illustration book Victory at Sea: Naval Power and the Transformation of the Global Order in World War II by the late maritime visual artist Ian Marshall and historian Paul Kennedy. Here Toll discusses how the artist shed a full-color depiction of battle fleets during the Second World War.

While the paintings vividly capture the contrasting imagery of the dark times, Toll says the narrative Kennedy added to the book “does not meet the high standard of scholarship” compared to the historian’s previous work and that it “is poorly sourced and blemished by many errors.”

Through the colorful lens of a maritime artist

Marshall spent the remaining years of his life illustrating warships that dominated the seas during the Second World War. Using his watercolor brush, he painted a colorful depiction of the catastrophic era and the fates of the six major navies—Britain, France, America, Germany, Italy, and Japan—during the war (between 1936 and 1946) without overly romanticizing them. Through this, he was able to retell the dynamic story of sea warfare that would eventually impact the world and change the course of history forever.

“…you can almost whiff the salt breeze and hear the gulls,” Toll’s take on Marshall’s warship illustrations.