En route to the waiting ship, a seven-person boarding party rows a steady pace across a choppy green sea. Onboard the ship, the remaining crew prepares for departure. William Alexander Coulter knew such duties well, for his early life at sea was spent aboard sailing vessels. His seafaring knowledge assisted him to paint expertly rendered narratives, like this three-masted merchant ship backing her mainyard in opposition to the foremast sail to keep her still in the wind.
Accuracy played a very important role in Coulter’s art. His use of precise lines for rigging and sails gives way to his suggestive qualities for his human figures. All complimented with a well-thought display of daylight, with very slight shadows and highlights.
Coulter’s scene has an inherent northern California feel. A sporadically clouded atmosphere gives way further out to an approaching heavy marine layer. The soft but active sea finishes the setting for the ship, which fills the vertical canvas nicely. Of note is another canvas, this of the sail swung horizontally to starboard. Likely this is being used to collect rainwater, of which having enough is always a concern at sea. This work shows the skilled hand of an artist well acquainted with ocean travel.
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