Durand-Brager was well traveled, and spent many days at sea. He evidently experienced its none-too-subtle might firsthand to be able to recreate the vivid realism of the impact of an Atlantic swell against the hardworking transatlantic American steam passenger ship De Ruyter, which is rushing to the assistance of the beleaguered British sailing ship, loch earn.
This work marks the arrival of several American-owned steamship companies competing for transatlantic passengers. In this instance, it is the side-wheeler of the Engels line, with its distinctive funnel, running from New York to Antwerp. The line was one of several which found itself in direct competition with the new American steamship line and the company which would become known as the red star line, with their Philadelphia to Antwerp routes. The Belgium destination is marked by the pennant on the foremast.
The rescue of the iron sailing ship became necessary after its tragic collision in the English Channel with the French steamer Ville du Havre on nov.22, 1873. The American steamship is heavily occupied, with passengers visible on all decks and striving upon the bridge. Only a few people were rescued from the French steamer, and most of the survivors picked up by loch earn were transferred to the American ship Tremountain a day later. This painting, directly commissioned by the American ambassador to Belgium, Joseph Russell Jones, as a formal commemoration, marks the heroism of the moment against the primal power of the open ocean, and marks the beginnings of an American-Belgian passenger ship company.
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