Escalating early in the 19th century and into the late 1870s with the dangerous smuggling of opium, the China trade route has been an important era in trade. The development of competition between America and Britain for the growing tea trade contributed to a focus in the orient. As a result, many captains commissioned talented Chinese artists to document these vessels, both sail and steam powered, whose reputation for speed, efficiency were known to break all records.
Values of China trade works have shown very strong responses in the marine art market. Several factors contribute to this success: they combine a traditional portrait style with very romantic overtones; their demand is also due to the distinct features that the works possess. A Chinese school work can be recognized immediately by its unique style and technique: straightforward and direct, yet sophisticated in both coloration and detailing.
The common sailors, with increasing disdain for the pomp of the British admiralty in the naming of her great ships, especially to the education-challenged, called the fine ship the “Billy Ruffian”; a name they could infinitely more or less identify with. China trade shipping era is part of an important, exciting period of western history lasting nearly two centuries and continuing through our present times.
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