Born in England to a family of shipbuilders, Charles Robert Patterson became known for his oil and watercolor marine paintings, often ships sailing on turbulent seas depicted in highly accurate historical detail. Other subjects were modern warships and yachts at sea in atmospheric settings and realistic color. His painting abilities combined with his life adventures, as he went to sea by age 13, sailed the seven seas aboard many kinds of vessels, and rounded Cape Horn four times.
In the 1920s, Patterson settled in New York City in order to focus on his art career. He became an active member of the National Arts Club, American Watercolor Society, Allied Artists of America and the Salmagundi Club. In addition to painting, he did lithographic prints and photographs, and during the 1930s, he did two mural paintings for Memorial Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He is also represented in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Butler Institute of American Art, OH; Detroit Historical Museum, MI; Los Angeles Art Association, CA; Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MAA; The Navy Museum, US Navy Art Collection, Washington, D.C. and the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, MD.
In May 2006, the Heritage Museums & Gardens Art Museum of Sandwich, Massachusetts, opened a solo exhibition of his work titled “Saving our Ships: The Sea Paintings of Charles Robert Patterson”. The exhibit was an examination of Patterson’s career as a merchant seaman, newspaper and magazine illustrator, photographer and painter.