Crack Downeaster JABEZ HOWES slices the cold Pacific waters entering the mouth of San Francisco Bay as once witnessed by the eye of sailor-artist Charles Robert Patterson in this large scale scene. The dramatic sense of this accomplishment is accented with several observations: the setting sun at their backs illuminates the sails, which are healthily employed to create the rake of speed as the bow breaks way through the sparkling surf; the mist is risen to the uppermost ridge top allowing for the days warmth to slowly be taken by the cool fog of Northern California, and the men on deck are actively at their tasks of making ready to reach their harbor berth.
The complete composition is a remarkable work of art. While Patterson employs a loose suggestive brush with his own inventive coloration throughout the canvas, the entirety reads true to life. The headland is the famous Lime Point where the north foundations of the Golden Gate Bridge connect to the Mendicino Coast today. Patterson knew these shores well, having sailed from the East Coast to San Francisco on several voyages in the 1890s, and in 1926 with the U.S. Navy. He went home and painted this portrait that year for his one-man show presented by Arthur Harlow in New York City. Patterson also used this painting to illustrate two magazine articles in 1927 and 1945.
The sharp lines and six courses of sail per mast speak of its driven quest for speed for the capable carrier. Built in 1877 by the esteemed yard of John Currier, Jr. In Newburyport, Mass., the 218.7 ft. ship weighed in at a massive 1581 tons. Owned by George Howes & Co of New York, the downeaster earned the reputation as one of the fastest sailing vessels of the last quarter of the 19th Century. She would sail from the Atlantic to San Francisco’s Golden Gate 17 times before the turn of the century, primarily for her second owner, John Rosenfield of San Francisco; and one sailing from New York to Melbourne, Australia around Cape Good Hope in 80 days. In 1900, she went into the Pacific lumber trade, and after seven years, she sold to the Alaskan Packers Association, and running out of Puget Sound, she called on West Coast ports in both North and South America, until she went aground in 1911, after 34 years of hard-driven service.
Illustrated: “Sea Breezes, Jan. 1927”; “Marine Progress” March 1945 article by Charles Robert Patterson; “Sailor-Artist, The Paintings of Charles Robert Patterson” by Robert Webb, 2005, page 323
Exhibited: C.R. Patterson, One Artist Show of paintings owned
by Arthur Harlow, New York City, 1926.
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