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William Bradford
American (1823-1892)

Sunrise off Grand Manan Island, 1860


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

COLUMBIA and WENONAH Rounding Southwest Spit Buoy

The brilliant J. E. Buttersworth, considered the dean of 19th century yachting artists, has chosen to depict a fleet of no less than ten racing yachts approaching buoy number 10 at Southwest spit on the old NYYC course off Sandy Hook. The central vessel is the 1871 America’s Cup Defender, COLUMBIA wearing the private signal of her owner, NYYC Rear Commodore Franklin Osgood.

Both COLUMBIA’s jib and mainsail are deep reefed, while her crew struggles to furl the foresail in a lively sea stirred up by an approaching squall. On the left, charging in from windward on starboard tack, is the 1880 extreme cutter WENONAH, a British design built by Henry Piepgrass of New York, and owned by James Stillman of the NYYC.

Osgood had COLUMBIA (114’L x 26’B x 8’D) built at the Roach yard in Chester, Pennsylvania as one of the big schooners designed to defend the America’s Cup, which she successfully achieved in 1871. The cutter WENONAH was very unique for her time. NYYC rules stated that yachts racing in their regattas had to have been built in America. The new British built extreme cutters were winning most of the challenge races in Europe, so Stillman engaged the firm of Harvey and Prior in London to design one of the new speedsters and had her built in New York by master shipwright Henry Piepgrass. The combination proved successful as WENONAH proceeded to win all but one of her NYYC races the year she was launched. It was in part due to WENONAH’s success that the America’s Cup was henceforth contested in single-masted cutters rather than schooners.

To accent racing drama, Buttersworth often depicted his racing scenes at the outermost point of the racecourse. This example is an excellent narrative that expresses great understanding of the action rounding the mark near the Sandy Hook Lightship. For many years this painting was one of the highlights of the prestigious collection of Olympic Yachtsman and New York Yacht Club member Glen S. Foster.

The period photograph shows the Skipper of the COLUMBIA Andrew J. Comstock, at the COLUMBIA's helm. This is shown for historical reference and not included with the painting.

Illustrated: Granby, Alan; “A Yachtsman’s Eye, The Glen S. Foster Collection of Marine Paintings” p.45; Schaefer, Rudolph J., "J.E. Buttersworth, 19th Century Marine Painter" (Plate IX) pp.116-117

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

Early Screw Steamer STAR OF THE SOUTH in Heavy Seas


This dramatic image Illustrates James E. Buttersworth’s ability to convey the effects of the sea’s ever changing weather conditions. The waves and sea state bear Buttersworth’s characteristic fluidity and motion. The subject vessel is the important early screw steamer STAR OF THE SOUTH, built by T. Birely and son at Philadelphia in 1853. After disastrous beginnings in the 1840’s, screw steamers began proving their worth in the 1850’s with the revolutionary engines and propellers designed by R.F Loper. It was the association between Birely and Loper that developed the finest screw steamers in the world. Equipped with the new steam engine and propeller, STAR OF THE SOUTH became the first entirely successful wood screw steamship in history.

STAR OF THE SOUTH is dramatically silhouetted against a cloudbank and lit by a diagonal shaft of light from an overhead break in the clouds. The ship appears to be steady and riding nicely in the rough seas. The portrait is balanced by a merchant ship struggling under shortened sail in the left background, clearly illustrating the advantages of STAR OF THE SOUTH’s superior screw propulsion in heavy weather. Buttersworth depicts the steamer slightly right of center, suggesting controlled forward momentum.

At 960T x 206.1’L x 31.2’B x 15.6’B, STAR OF THE SOUTH was larger, faster and more luxurious than any of her screw driven predecessors. Her cabin was fitted with adjoining staterooms that could accommodate 40 passengers. She was initially built to run between New York and New Orleans. After 1855, she began making passages to South America and Liverpool, recording the fastest run (17 days) to Liverpool of any American screw steamer.

The following two years found her operating under charter in the Black Sea, carrying troops and supplies for the Crimean War. In 1858 she returned to America and was put on the New York to Savannah run where she was highly successful until the outbreak of the Civil War.

Starting in May of 1861 she was chartered at $600 per day by the U.S. Quartermaster Corps serving as a troop transport and commerce patrol vessel in which capacity she was kept in continuous operation throughout the conflict. As well as the US Jack on the foremast, the ship flies a 20 star naval boat ensign on her stern staff. 20 star U.S. flags were used as maritime ensigns from the early 19th century, up to and including the time of the Civil War.

The House flag flown from the vessel’s mizzen hoist is that of Boston Merchants Peirce & Bacon, a mercantile firm that shipped cargoes extensively from New England to ports on the Gulf Coast. It is likely Peirce & Bacon commissioned this fine portrait of their vessel from Buttersworth to grace the walls of their New York office.

In 1865, STAR OF THE SOUTH was laid up at New York. In 1866 she was sold and briefly returned to the merchant service, but arduous sea duty during two wars and too little maintenance, had taken their toll. Her boilers gave out and she completed her final voyages as a sailing vessel. The Shipping and Commercial List shows that she vanished, without a Custom House clearance, from New York in April, 1868. No doubt she was towed away for scrap.

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Thomas Buttersworth
English (1768-1837)

H.M.S. Shannon Boards U.S.S. Chesapeake off Boston
Famous Naval Battle of 1813


This historic depiction of the Battle of Boston Harbor illuminates one of the most famous sea battles in both American and British Naval history. On the afternoon of June 1, 1813 the U.S.S. CHESAPEAKE sailed out of Boston to meet the challenge of the waiting H.M.S. SHANNON.

Although a British victory, by a supreme irony, the Americans would emerge from the defeat with the greater benefit. For it was in this battle that the gallant young American Commander James Lawrence spoke the immortal words "Don't Give Up The Ship" as he lay mortally wounded on CHESAPEAKE’s deck. This famous phrase infused the fledgling U.S. Navy with an even more vigorous determination to fight and win.

The battle was brief but intense. In about fifteen minutes, 252 men were killed or wounded between the two sides, a large number of casualties for such a conflict. Though the ships were evenly matched, CHESAPEAKE’s crew was primarily made up of men new to the ship, who, while themselves well trained, had had little time to drill together or with Captain Lawrence, also new to the ship. In contrast, SHANNON’s Commander, Sir Philip Bowes Vere Broke, was an expert in naval gunnery who had modified his cannons for greater aim and maneuverability and then spent a long voyage with his crew training them to fire on key targets to quickly disable opposing ships.

CHESAPEAKE took more serious hits in their early exchanges of cannon fire, the fatal blow being the loss of her ship’s wheel. With no way to maneuver, the wind and waves carried CHESAPEAKE into SHANNON’s starboard side where she took another barrage of heavy fire before the British crew lashed the two ships together. When the smoke cleared, Broke gave the command to board CHESAPEAKE.

After taking relentless fire across his decks, Captain Lawrence remained the only officer on CHESAPEAKE’s quarterdeck, his lieutenants wounded below. Lawrence also gave the order to board, and it is this moment where the two crews met in pitched hand to hand combat that Buttersworth has so brilliantly depicted here.

Figures line the decks of each ship, trading musket fire as the cannon flash below. Sailors climb the tangle of fallen rigging to reach their opponents, swords raised in the charge. The fading light of day illuminates both ships, damaged but still deep in the fight, neither ready to give way.

Detail is outstanding, but it is the drama of the conflict that Buttersworth so skillfully portrays. The cannon smoke surrounds the ships, but off to the right it clears to show us Boston Harbor busy with trade- capturing the essence of America’s freedoms won just a few decades before. It was America’s desire for self-determination as a nation and continued independence from Britain that led to the conflict here.

The white flag shown on CHESAPEAKE is historically accurate, though not as a symbol of surrender. CHESAPEAKE was known to have left harbor flying a large white flag at the foremast inscribed “Free Trade and Sailor's Rights” – representing America’s main grievances in the War of 1812.

By all accounts both sides fought bravely and with distinction. Lawrence was hit in the first wave of fire by the British coming aboard, and it was while members of his crew carried him below that he would give the infamous order, "Tell the men to fire faster! Don't give up the ship!"

Lawrence’s last command to his crew became a rallying cry for the American Navy throughout the war. Later, Lawrence’s peer, Captain Oliver Hazard Perry would take his friend’s words and emblazon them on his battle flag, winning the day at the Battle of Lake Erie, a significant turning point to the overall American victory. The motto has inspired U.S. Naval sailors from that time until today and Perry’s original flag is on display at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

Captain Broke led the charge onto CHESAPEAKE and in the battle to follow would also sustain a serious injury and, while he survived and went on to receive many honors for this victory, he would never again serve at sea.

A brilliant portrait of one of the most important naval actions ever fought, this painting embodies the fighting spirit of the great naval sailors of history.

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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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