Caught in an active broadside portrait, artist John Scott of Newcastle presents the American Sidewheel Steamship GEORGE PEABODY off Tynemouth along the Northeast English coast. The English Channel waterway is active with other vessels and a wind-driven sea, with several large square-riggers making use of the prevailing breeze. Several men are shown on deck, while the Tynemouth Castle and Priory are in view north of the harbor on the elevation of Pen Bal Crag, the burial site of three British kings.
The sidewheeler, named after the prominent 1795 Massachusetts-born entrepreneur who founded the Peabody Trust in Britain and is the acknowledged father of charitable philanthropy, was built in Baltimore, Maryland. It sold to the United States Quartermaster Maritime Division in 1861, and was in use for the North during the American Civil War. Used as a troop transport for the Burnside Expedition in 1862, and present at the bombardment of Forts Hatteras & Clark, the GEORGE PEABODY also was involved in an unfortunate collision with the Steamer WEST POINT at Ragged Point, Maryland on August 12, 1862. She went back into merchant service after the war. Here she is shown steaming in the English Channel the same year South Danvers was renamed Peabody after its favorite son, who retired from business in 1864.
Folk-art qualities are present in the painting, with sharp lines and the artistic sensation of distance related by having the closer objects in deeper tones and tighter detail, and the further away, the lighter and more ethereal the subject’s become. An accurate period view of a historic American vessel and tribute to an American icon.
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