Absolutely a top flight painting by this impressive British painter of marines, the subtle and placid beauty of the composition draws favorable comparison to the best qualities of Fitz Hugh Lane and J.M.W. Turner, for millions of dollars less. The expansive harbor view does justice to the extremely cosmopolitan make-up of the important and long storied port.
Southern home to the British Royal Navy, its importance is marked even the early second century roman written records. The harbor once possessed a chain which could stretch across the ‘ports mouth’ to prevent entry in times of potential attack. So many commercial, passenger and yachting accomplishments and ‘firsts’ were achieved here that it is a monstrous task to even attempt to list them. The first drydocks ever built for ship repair were here in 1495. The importance of yacht racing in the nearby Solent and around the Isle of Wight is well documented. Steam power came to prominence here, and is present with the large sidewheel steamships shown among the sailing ships. The period styles of clothing on display suggest just some of the port’s importance as an international center for waterborne passenger transportation.
Dated 1880, this work widens the boundaries for David James. He was considered an active London marine painter from the 1880s on, and this work pre-dates his participation in the Royal Academy in 1881, yet exhibits his professional skill was well developed before this. Known primarily as a seascape artist, the luminescence present of this harbor scene surpasses any of the very few others we have ever seen by the artist.
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