A format size that the artist favored for personal works, rather than the large size clipper and yachting commissions performed on canvas, this horizontal panel holds the elements that collector’s seek in his dramatic paintings. Straight from the later half of the 19th century, three diverse ships work the same ocean, with decidedly mixed results. More important, the trademark atmosphere sun-break in the stormy clouds give hope of the sailors prospering against nature’s force.
The deep shadows of a storm bracket the sky while a small sailing merchant clipper passes a cutter driven hard to port. The rowed boat is actively rescuing a man overboard from the sea. A choppy break strikes the cutter, reaching up over the bow like Neptune’s fingers. The crew is actively employing the sail to try to stabilize the ship, while the clipper has only the fore lower top sail and one jib set, with the fore and main course hastily stowed and puffing.
Nice strength of coloration exists in the work, and the human condition is emphasized onboard the two smaller ships with the tight detail to the figures. The distant hues of the warm sun are a relief from the deep troughs of the ocean, and even in this diminutive size, Buttersworth shows great deck detail on the more distant square rigged ship’s deck with the multiple colors of the various woods used to build her.
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