Warren Sheppard’s gentle luminism bathes this work with the warm tones of a late afternoon on New York’s East River in 1876. The location appears to be on Little Neck Bay looking North towards Throggs Neck, on the south-eastern tip of the Bronx, where the East River meets Long Island Sound. The fort depicted in the right background is Fort Schuyler, which today houses the prestigious Maritime Industry Museum and the State University Maritime College.
A skilled navigator and yacht designer, Warren Sheppard created paintings abundant with details learned from a lifetime spent at sea. The authenticity so prevalent in Sheppard’s work is combined with painterly skills learned while studying as a young man with the esteemed Dutch marine master M.F.H. De Haas. This composition is so beautifully balanced it presents the viewer with a seemingly un-posed tableau of life on the East River in the late 19th century.
The central vessel is a schooner-barque or barkentine, with sails raised, but still un-sheeted and slack. The presence of the steam tug in the foreground and crewmen who appear to be working the barkentine’s ground tackle suggests the ship is just raising anchor and will soon be assisted down-channel to the sea by the tug. The towboat wears no livery or markings to identify it, but is most likely owned by the Greenpoint Literage Company which was the foundation of the McAllister Brothers Towing Co., that sent tugs out from their docks in nearby Queens. Today, McAllister continues to operate tugs all over the East Coast. Two schooners are working in the background with a small brig riding at anchor to the far right of the composition.
This painting is an important example of Sheppard’s most sought after style and subject. Housed in its original period gilt frame.
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