This fine portrait of the lumber schooner MARY E. RUSS is the earliest known ship painting by California marine artist Joseph Lee. The sharply defined portrayal of her rig and deck layout attest to Lee's almost photographic style. The intense color in the vessel's hull and the strong blue green sea are further trademarks of this biographically obscure marine master.
As seen in all of Lee's ship portraits, the vessel is shown in a full port-side view with all sail set. The background contains, in smaller scale, an American brig and three additional renderings of either the MARY E. RUSS or a schooner of the same class. Note the uncommon accuracy and detail shown in the schooner's rigging, one of Lee's most recognizable attributes.
The 235 gross ton MARY E. RUSS was built at Eureka, California by Euphronius Cousins for the Russ Lumber Company. The schooner was 115 feet long with a beam of 32 feet and drew 9½ feet of water. Throughout a long career she carried cargoes of timber between San Diego and the northern lumber ports.
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