Three clippers sailing the open sea, racing to be the first to their shared destination, spring forth on this large canvas by artist Charles Robert Patterson. The rush for gold in California is on, the heights of the sailing tea trade with China to Britain is at its peak, and American sail is dominant. Patterson’s overall composition revels in the speed these ship could produce, and the bright blue day and fully rendered ocean tells the story of an artist who knew the sea firsthand.
A special painting by the deep-water sailor, Patterson exhibited “Blue Water Racing” at the National Arts Club in New York in 1924, and it was used as a prominent illustration in the May Issue of “Yachting” magazine that year. The emergence of British steam and its consistency began to cut into overall passengers and cargoes for sailing ship, but the removal of protective British tariffs in the tea trade and Sutter’s discovery of gold in California in 1849 and the massive westward migration that followed soon changed that.
The clipper ship featured prominently is identified by the artist with a four-flag International Code arraignment beneath the American Ensign, yet “H.V.W.J.” has yet to come to light to revel this identity. She’s possibly ORIENTAL, the first American Clipper with tea from China to London in 1850, or most likely SEA WITCH or CELESTIAL, the 1849 record-holder and first 1850 challenger to the Cape Horn voyage to San Francisco, respectively. Other medium-clippers afloat in 1850 are ARCHITECT, WHITE SQUALL, SURPRISE, JOHN BERTRAM, ECLISPSE, STAG HOUND and SEA SERPENT. Soon a proliferation of clippers, the best launching out of the yards of William Webb in New York and Donald McKay’s in East Boston would make this the era of the American Clipper. Patterson’s epic homage to these great ships is a masterpiece.
Literature: “Yachting” Magazine, May 1924, Page Spread.
Provenance: Chicago Athletic Association.
Exhibited: National Arts Club, New York, 1924.
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