Considered to possibly be the finest gouache painted by the renowned marine artist, the sidewheel steamship KAATERSKILL is well represented in this painting by James Bard. A stark white beauty, the headland elevation of green hills sets the painting off, with cloud wisps overhead. The elaborate paddlebox is painstakingly detailed, and every ship detail shown compliments.
Built in Athens, New York by Van Loon & Magee for the New York, Catskill & Athens Steamboat Company in 1882, the house flag is the uppermost elevated on the fore mast, a streaming American pennant atop this. Ten additional flags fly, including the large United States ensign behind her name banner. She held 125 staterooms and 150 cabin berths, for luxurious comfort transporting vacationers to the Catskill resorts. Four other lines would own her before she was used and intentionally burnt while filming a motion picture in 1914.
This work is excellent. No less an authority than the author of the definitive book on James Bard, Anthony Peluso, writes “he reached the highest level of his craft in SARATOGA and KAATERSKILL.” By this period bard had moved almost exclusively to the more demanding gouache media, and had evolved the human presence out of his paintings, so there would be less distraction to the beauty of the steam ships. He painted three other watercolors of this ship previous to this portrait; they reside in the collections of the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia, the Huntington Library collection in San Marino, California, and the Shelburne museum in Shelburne, Vermont.
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