A full-bodied and able carrier, VALLEY FORGE was a ship which Patterson may have been directly familiar with very early in his sailing career. As a 1862-built downeaster she worked a dependable 32-year career as a general cargo carrier, first out of Maine for her builder, William Bradstreet of Pittston, and after 1881 for C.L. Dingley of San Francisco in the coastwise Pacific lumber and coal trades.
This painting is perfect in compositional scale, with the full height of her lofty masts and thick spars. The large capacity hold would manage a gross 1,286.18 tons, with a 192'l x 36'3"b x 18'3"d. She is shown traveling a ‘great circle’ arc, taking into account the curvature of the earth’s surface for the shortest possible route. The ocean has a sparkling trough before her as the ship sails with the direction of the sunlight. The sun’s high position puts soft shadows beneath each curved sail. Full of warmth, the painting still translates the lingering essence of cool mist upon the open ocean.
Patterson depicts another ship and a schooner on the near horizon, with the expansive sky of soft, high atmosphere. Even at this distance they would be able to spy and decipher VALLEY FORGE’s name in international code flying proudly astern. In the 1890s, she would wait three years at the San Francisco docks for a last chance to show her proven capabilities, long after nearly all others of her age were long retired and gone.
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