Reginald Arnold Borstel was born in Newtown, Sydney, Australia in 1875, the son of a master mariner. In his early years he was himself a sailor, serving for a time as chief mate aboard the full-rigged ship RABOETEL. Later he became one of several artists employed by the Adelaide Photo Company of Sydney to work from photographs of ships and create oil paintings showing them in brisk winds and whitecapped seas.
Borstel worked on his own in later years and is recognized as one of the last Australian marine artists to be commissioned directly by ship captains and owners to document the last days of the great age of sail. He successfully bridged the gap from sail to steam, but most often he painted the last surviving windjammers, the great steel barques and barkentines engaged in the waning pacific trade.
From his studio on King Street in Newtown, R.A. Borstel produced numerous ship portraits that became post cards, advertisements and sailing posters. Although little is known of his personal life, he left the world a strong legacy of ship portraiture before his death at age 46 in 1922. Most of Borstel's work resides in private collections throughout the world.