Francis Holman's earliest works are portraits of ships, commonly commissioned for ships' captains. From 1767 to 1772, he exhibited eleven pictures at the Free Society of Artists, and he began to produce pictures of shipyards and the general life of maritime Britain in the late eighteenth century. By 1773, Holman had taken on Thomas Luny as an apprentice; Luny later became a major maritime painter in his own right. With the American War of Independence and the strong contemporary public interest in the Royal Navy, it was natural that Holman should turn his talents towards more patriotic themes. Between 1774 and 1784, he sent seventeen pictures, mostly of the Royal Navy or sea battles, for exhibition at the Royal Academy. His most notable painting of the American War of Independence is The Moonlight Battle off Cape St Vincent, 16 January 1780. Holman's paintings have achieved good prices at auction and form significant collections at museums, not least the National Maritime Museum. His attention to detail and in-depth knowledge of his subject have left us with a valuable record of eighteenth century maritime life, and consequently his reputation as a major marine painter has grown.