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James E. Buttersworth
Anglo-American (1817-1894)

Gale Warning, the Schooner ARIEL

A large British sailing ship wearing a “Red Duster”, the civil ensign of the United Kingdom, is shown being towed by a steam tug through what appears to be a fleet of racing yachts. The tug flies a large American jack on her jack staff, attesting to the scene being an American narrative. The merchant vessel flies a red and black flag, the international code signal for a gale warning, at the top of her main hoist, signaling to all of a fast approaching gale. Except for her jibs and spanker, the ship’s sails are all “harbor furled”, wrapped tightly on their yards, suggesting the ship is being towed in after being rescued at sea by the tug.

The view is likely off the approaches to New York harbor, a favored Buttersworth subject area and location of several of the New York Yacht Club’s race courses. The primary schooner in the left foreground shows her owner’s private signal, a red swallowtail with blue diagonal stripes. Records of the New York Yacht Club designate this to be the 77 foot long ARIEL, launched in 1873 and belonging to Colonel Francis L. Leland (1839-1916). Leland was a prominent American economist and for many years, president of the New York County Bank. Between 1873 and 1876, ARIEL was the popular flagship of the Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club in Oyster Bay, of which Leland was also a member, and a neighboring competitor of the NYYC.

The wind is blowing offshore, and the schooners in the racing fleet are enjoying brisk conditions. The seas are animated and lively and all sails are full and drawing. However, as they see the gale warning flag on the merchant ship, sails will soon be taken in and the vessels will make for the shelter of home or the nearest port.

James Buttersworth was a celebrated narrative painter, and this image tells a fascinating tale, showcasing his meticulous draftsmanship and accurate modeling of 19th century vessels. The exceptional lighting and expressive atmosphere are among the finest examples of the Buttersworth oeuvre.

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James E. Buttersworth
Anglo-American (1817-1894)

The Start of the Great 1866 Transatlantic Yacht Race

A beautiful painting with historic importance, three schooner yachts line up before the Sandy Hook Lightship for the start of the world's first Transatlantic Yacht Race held in 1866. In his book, "J.E. Buttersworth, 19th Century Marine Painter", biographer Rudolph J. Schaefer has noted six views by the artist of this event. This is largest of the known works of this important benchmark in American yacht racing.

Identification of the racing schooners is assisted by the special colored flags worn by the yachts. Foremost in the painting, wearing the Blue was HENRIETTA, owned by renowned newspaper publisher and infamous yachtsman James Gordon Bennett, Jr. White was atop the mast of VESTA, owned by tobacco baron and racehorse aficionado Pierre Lorillard, who initiated the competition with a dinner party boast over turtle soup that his 105-foot schooner was the fastest yacht afloat. The Red flag identified prominent New York Yacht Club members George and Franklin Osgood's famous FLEETWING. A wager of $30,000 each was put up the yacht owners for the head-to-head-to-head match race across the Atlantic Ocean. Bennett's HENRIETTA was the first to the finish off the Isle of Wight with a time of 13 days, 21 hours and 45 minutes winning the then-unrivaled and unheard of purse for any race of $90,000 or $1.3M in today's dollars.

Buttersworth's attention to minute detail shows the racing crews lining the windward rail on all three yachts with all sails set on a broad reach, using organized discipline to pull hard at the rope lines. The elongated bows and colorful treatment of sea and sky make this an excellent work of Buttersworth’s favorite subject matter and superior style. Since the winner HENRIETTA is so prominently featured, one must assume that Buttersworth painted this after the results were known, possibly for Bennett himself.

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Montague Dawson
British (1895-1973)

Nearing Home, The HELICON

Bright and magnificent, the Ship HELICON slices on a quick reach in this maritime merchant ship portrait with its remarkable realism in his signature loose stroke. The sailing ship carries a proper spread of canvas for the existing wind, and Montague Dawson portrays numerous sailors active on her deck and in the rigging. Her white hull glistens, and shows some of the inevitable rust of a hard-working steel-and-iron hull ship. The ocean is alive with movement beneath the ship.

HELICON was built by Charles Connell & Co. of Glasgow to order for German owners Bernard Wencke & Son in 1887. She measured 230'6" Length with a 38'4" Beam, and weighed in at 1613 net tons. Connell & Co. had launched a near-identical sister ship to HELICON the year prior, the historic vessel BALCLUTHA, which is now a famous museum ship based in San Francisco.

After Wencke purchased the British STAR OF THE SEA in 1884, they renamed that ship HELICON. Loaded with 2000 tons of railroad tracks, the ship departed Hull on Feb. 2, 1886, bound for Sydney. She was never seen again. In memory, the Wencke firm named their newest ship HELICON, and it served the company on voyages to Australia, Chile and Africa for years, selling to Spanish interests in 1920. The ship served nine more years as VIUDA LLUSA, until broken up in 1929. Dawson may have known this ship early as an artist, and revisited the subject later in his career to produce this painting.

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Anton Otto Fischer
German-American (1882-1962)

The Dreadnought Battleship U.S.S. WYOMING of 1911

Showcasing the strength and power of the formidable battleships known as Dreadnoughts, Anton Otto Fischer portrays USS WYOMING dramatically crashing through heavy swells while underway in stormy seas. Passing to port on a reciprocal course to windward, a large three-masted schooner works, hull down, in the confused sea state. Fischer beautifully illustrates the drama of heavy weather and its nearly minimal effect on one of America’s most revered capital ships.

USS WYOMING (BB32) was the first of two battleships that would make up the Wyoming class of warship. At a length of 562’ with a 93’ beam and a draft of 28’6”, the 27,000 ton WYOMING and her sister USS ARKANSAS were the fourth Dreadnought design built for the United States Navy. WYOMING was laid down in February 1910 at the Cramp and Sons yard in Philadelphia, was launched in May 1911, and finally completed in September 1912. She was armed with a main battery of twelve 12-inch (305 mm) guns and capable of a top speed of 20.5 knots (23.6 mph).

WYOMING served proudly as part of US Battleship Division 9 during WWI, which became the Sixth Battle Squadron of the British Grand Fleet while active in British waters. After the war, she became one of the first units of the newly designated Pacific Fleet and was home ported in both San Diego and San Pedro, conducting exercises off the California coast. During this period, future Fleet Admiral William F. Halsey served as the battleship’s executive officer.

During WWII, WYOMING served with distinction as a gunnery ship attached to the United States Naval Academy, training some 35,000 midshipmen as gunnery officers. Wyoming was decommissioned in 1947 and her name struck from the Navy list. Her hulk was sold for scrap and she was broken up at New York in December 1947.

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George M. Hathaway
American (1852-1903)

Coming Through the Mists, Maine Harbor

In this atmospheric Maine harbor view, the grey tone of the fog enveloping the sea and sky lend an air of realism to a striking composition. Granite and green are the colors of the Maine Coast, and here, George Hathaway shows a familiarity with his New England roots. The harbor is likely Portland, a favored location of the artist which he portrayed in many of his works. The composition depicts an overcast sky and flat water enshrouding an arriving white-hulled bark. The bark has every stitch of canvas set to catch any whisper of wind in the calm inner harbor.

A Portland “Black Stack” tug, with a crewman ready at the bow holding a heaving line, makes its way alongside to assist maneuvering the bark to her anchorage. In the busy harbor, a schooner’s topsails rise out of the mist off the bark’s starboard beam and a second downeaster trails in the bark’s wake. In the left foreground, a dangerous “snag” in the form of a single protruding dock piling, illustrates an ever-present reminder to keep a sharp lookout.

In his native Maine, Hathaway was well recognized for his eloquent views of the Maine coast, and this lovely composition is one of the very best examples of his work we have ever come across. The primary vessel is nicely detailed, with her “catted” anchor ready to be “let go” and accurate portrayal of the prominent rows of deadeyes anchoring the mast shrouds. The bark is “in ballast”, riding high on her lines having not yet taken on a cargo. The overall coloration is a soft study in marine mood, muting the overall effect and nicely highlighting the subject vessels.

This is a fine marine work and should be considered for its acute realism and exquisite coloration.

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William John Huggins
British (1781-1845)

The Northern Whale Fishery

The Ship Harmony of Hull and Other Ice-Bound Whalers on the Davis Straits between Baffin Bay, Canada and Greenland.

Huggins, a one time a sailor with the East India Company and firsthand witness to the scene depicted, first painted this well-known image in 1828. Entitled Northern Whale Fishery, the image was engraved by Edward Duncan in 1829 (Huggins son-in-law) and brought greater fame to both men for illuminating the rewards and perils of whaling in the icy waters on the Davis Strait whaling ground between southeast Baffin Bay, Canada and Greenland. The original 1828 work now hangs in the renowned New Bedford Whaling Museum, New Bedford, Massachusetts.

This second, larger and more proficient interpretation of the scene was most likely commissioned by Robert Bell in 1835 (son to Thomas Bell, owner of the HARMONY). The American built bark HARMONY of 292 tons sits at the center of the painting with the MARGARET of London to the left and the ELIZA SWAN of Montrose to the right. Filled with incredible detail throughout, nearly every aspect of whaling is depicted- from the chase and capture, to processing the catch alongside, to “trying out” or boiling down the blubber on HARMONY’s bow.

Two other masted ships are shown, including one foundering as the ice closes in on her hull, her crew surely trying to salvage what they can as they stand alongside. Penguins gather on an ice floe near one of the twelve depicted whale boats as it closes in on a catch. Birds circle all the ships, hoping for a morsel. Huggins sets the scene masterfully and the viewer can almost feel what it’s like to be there.

Authentic period paintings of the very interesting and historically significant whaling era are extremely rare. This painting not only depicts history, it is itself an important piece of history, combining fine detail, skillful brushwork and sensitive coloration in a work that any collector would cherish.

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