Born and raised in Philadephia, Xanthus Smith was the son of two accomplished artists, Mary and Russell Smith. A painter of Civil War marine battle scenes, Xanthus Smith sold his first paintings at age fifteen. Two years later he exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and by the start of the Civil War, he was an established painter. Xanthus served in the Union Navy from September, 1862 and painted while serving as a captain’s clerk. He saw limited action, but his love of the sea led to a series of naval scenes, painted between 1869 and 1874. His studio was in Philadelphia.