A bright, active sea finds a traditional merchant Clipper cresting over frothy white caps in this oil painting by maritime enthusiast and artist Henry Scott. The medium clipper has five-courses of sail set on her masts, and employs stuns’ls at the extreme lengths of her yards, using the extra canvas to assist turning quickly. At her forward rail, a crew of mariners work the rig to maximize the ship’s speed. Riding high, it appears she is in pursuit of a cargo to load and sail back to her home port.
Scott knew well many of the last Clipper Ships afloat. His professional association with the Master Mariners of Liverpool kept him painting the great ships of his time. Many historic vessels and epic voyages were recounted to him by the men who lived them. Likely one of their tales is the inspiration for this painting, with the ocean pushing the horizon to swollen heights. The clouds above seem to sense that they are no match in the race to make it to the nearest shore once the ship completes its course change.
Illuminating the canvas work of Scott’s brushstrokes, which in this case are intentionally capturing the depth of the ocean. The ships lines and edges are subtle, yet well defined as an overall composition. Certainly the men who knew the ship best would be complimentary of the portrait of their clipper, yet it is a careful departure by Scott not to show either the ship’s carved figurehead or nameboard to nail down definitively his subject ship’s identity. Scott chose her instead to be representative of one of the last “Wooden Walls” of a worldly merchant ship.
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