A glowing sky warms the inbound voyage of an American ocean-going tugboat in the midst of Long Island Sound. The artist, Warren Sheppard, was a local fixture of the late 19th Century New York art world, and a proponent of all maritime activities. He saw the obvious universal appeal of the moment and committed it to canvas. The ability to artistically create a sunset glow evolved from the decidedly American School of Luminous Art, and Sheppard was a chief proponent, following in the mastery of others, including William Bradford and Francis A. Silva.
Sheppard hit this one square on, with the strong presence of the chugging tugboat, her stack billowing and a sharp-lined pilot house eagle atop the cabin, the mariner at the helm and others on deck as she rolls past Stratford Shoal Lighthouse between Port Jefferson, New York and Bridgeport, Connecticut. Better known as Middleground Light, the decidedly Victorian structure is supported by heavy caissons. The light was automated in 1970 and is still in service.
The atmosphere painted is the star of the work while the tug and lighthouse play recognizable supporting roles. Shadowed tones carry off the horizon to contrast with the increasing bright of the sky, deepening the emotional serenity of the reflective and soft rippled water. There is no urgency, no waiting client, just a casual, clear voyage into port, and then the business of getting back to business. This is an exceptionally diverse and luminescent work of art a tug boat afficionado will cherish.
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