A vivid work of strong coloration, this narrative depiction of maritime action is directly inspired by one of four large murals N.C. Wyeth painted for the First National Bank of Boston in 1923-24. While not signed, the work possesses the dramatic coloration and aggressive application found in some of Wyeth’s work, and was perhaps performed by a student directly influenced by the respected artist, or possibly even a study by Wyeth himself. Within the scene, two extreme clippers of the 19th Century race a parallel course, betting the first to market will draw the victor’s spoils, and undoubtedly some side wagers. The mural has a third clipper present.
The canvas is alive with the strength of its presentation. Tall masts full of sails reach skyward, bone-yellow and crisp white. While traditional wood is present on the trailing clipper, a menagerie of red hues set off the bow and waterline of the lead vessel. The churning sea shifts through an emerald green to a dark shadowed water forward, topped with white foam. The clipper bow breaks the rough sea, throwing spray. An array of blues populate the clouded sky. Our artist used brushes, palette knives and layers of oil to achieve the final look.
Newell Convers Wyeth, one of the greatest of the American illustrator-artists to ever paint, produced his four murals in 1923-24 for the bank. “The Clippers”, finished in 1924, measured 174½ x 132½ inches, and was the representational image Wyeth chose for the 19th Century. The others were “The Phoenician Biremes”, “The Elizabethan Galleons”, and “The Tramp Steamer”. They today are part of the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Collection.
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