Calling in her dories through a thickening fog, the Lunenburg Grand Banker ALCALA, is beautifully portrayed by Nova Scotia sea painter Jack L. Gray. Gray’s earthy depictions of maritime life are regularly sought after for their realism and narrative excellence. Gray was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia and as a teenager, developed his love for the sea and painting at about the same time. His significant time spent at sea familiarized him with the realities of maritime endeavor, which is portrayed genuinely in all of his paintings.
Gray spent several years working aboard boats. He traveled to New York aboard his 15-foot skiff named S.O.B, which, for a time, also served as his studio. In New York, he often painted from a vantage point on the deck of the US Navy aircraft carrier ENTERPRISE. With these unique views of the harbor, Gray created an important body of work during his time in New York.
The 126 foot long ALCALA was built in 1919 at Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. The first seven years of her life were spent working the Grand Banks out of the small port of Digby until 1929, when she changed her registry to St. John’s, Newfoundland. In the early 20th century, Canada’s schooner fleet was a mainstay of the Cod fishing industry. Along with their US counterparts, these strongly built Canadian vessels, would spend months at a time on the Grand Banks, sending out their dories daily to seek the highly prized Atlantic Cod. ALCALA was a well-known “high liner” bringing record catches of cod to market still fresh due to her legendary speed under sail.
In this painting, two of ALCALA’s dories are making their way back to the schooner after a day of exhausting handline fishing. Dory #8 is in the foreground, her two “dory mates” up to their knees in fresh cod. In the distance, a second dory, this one under sail also approaches the schooner. ALCALA is jogging along under just her fore and main sails as the hard working fishermen come alongside to unload the day’s bounty.
Gray gets everything right in a beautiful composition rich in his trademark detail. The misty offshore atmosphere is accented by the red hull of the foreground dory and the fishermen’s sou’westers and colorful work clothes. Perspective between the dory and the graceful schooner is masterfully highlighted by the ever present swarm of seabirds circling in hopes the occasional cod will escape the unloading process and become a tasty snack.
Gray’s stirring depictions of maritime life are regularly sought after throughout the USA and Canada and can often exceed expectations when they are up for public sale and auctions. This is one of the best examples we have seen of his work.
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