James E. Buttersworth, one of the great American ship portraitist, is among the many painters of America’s maritime history whose works are collected by many. Among this thousands of works is “Volunteer Racing off Sandy Hook.”
Paintings of ships at sea have captivated collectors for decades. It doesn’t matter whether they are watercolors, oils, pastels or, more recently, acrylics, the images of Men-of-War, whalers, clipper ships, steamers and ocean liners are spellbinding. The paintings themselves—as well as prints and lithographs of the originals—have been collected since the 19th century. Over the years, the subjects have evolved with maritime technology and production. These days, wealthy yacht owners often commission marine painters to do portraits of their own vessels.
Marine or maritime art in America developed during the 19th century. Many of the artists had immigrated to America from other England and other European countries and are now considered claimed by America. While many of those early ship paintings are housed in museums, when they come to auction—infrequently as it may be—they sell for thousands of dollars. Fortunately for the average collector, many have been turned into affordable, quality prints as well as copies in oil.
COLLECTOR’S TIP: It may appear to be an original oil painting, with a two-dimensional effect. However, many of the finest marine paintings have been and are being made into Giclee prints. The word was created by Jack Duganne, a print maker, while searching for a name for a new type of print being made with inkjets, resulting in various textures and finishes [Giclee (zhee-klay) – The French word “giclée” is a feminine noun that means a spray or a spurt of liquid]. They are sold as such by reputable dealers and are used by contemporary marine artists for their prints.
Historically, in 17th-century Holland, paintings of yachting, naval battles and detailed “ship portraits” became something of a status symbol for the heads of shipping companies and captains. By the early 19th century, many British artists immigrated to America and began painting marine scenes and ship portraits. Their work in turn influenced would-be American marine painters. Although there are many marine artists who deserve your research, here a few of the most recognizable American painters of maritime subjects:
Buttersworth’s oil on canvas “Comet off the Battery.” This yacht Won more silver in her day than any other yacht. (Photo courtesy of Quester Gallery. Rowayton, Ct.).
James Edward Buttersworth (1817-1894): Buttersworth came to America from England in 1847 and moved to what is now Union City, N.J. Inspired by the clipper ships and yachts that moved in and out nearby New York harbor and the New York Yacht Club, he recreated them on canvas. He is considered America’s greatest marine artist.
Robert Salmon. Oil on canvas. “Outward Bound” Long Island Head, Boston Harbor0.
Robert Salmon(1775-1845): Though born in White Haven, Cumberland, England, Salmon’s outstanding marine paintings done while living for many years in Boston—qualify him as an American marine artist. Already well-known as a artist in the marine genre in England before traveling to Boston, Salmon made more than 300 marine paintings during the years he lived in Boston, from 1828 to 1842. He returned to England where he died.
Fitz Hugh (Henry) Lane. The “Southern Cross.” Oil on canvas. (Photo courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Ma.).
Fitz Hugh (Henry) Lane (1804-1865): As a marine artist, Lane was known for his portraits of vessels. He later achieved additional fame as a Hudson River School artist. Collectors and museums have raised the prices for his views of the Maine coastline, Boston Harbor and Cape May. He is now considered one of the greatest American marine artists. Some of his best-known paintings have been turned into hundreds of prints.
Lane’s began as a lithographer in Pendleton’s lithography shop in Boston. Basically as a self-taught artist, he left and began doing marine paintings. His first known and recorded work was a watercolor, “The Burning of the Packet Ship ‘Boston’,” in 1830.
Antonio Jacobsen. “The Yacht Race” Oil on board, laid down on canvas. (Photo courtesy of MM Fine Art, New York, N.Y.).
Antonio Nicolo Gasparo Jacobsen (1850-1921): Born in Denmark and trained at the Royal Academy of Art, Copenhagen, Jacobsen is best known for his ships portraits and ocean-going steamers, though he also painted tugs, yachts and a few seascapes. In 1873 he came to America and eventually settled in West Hoboken in 1880. His work became popular with steamship companies and he was commissioned to paint entire fleets. He is believed to have painted between 4,000 and 6,000 works.
Contemporary Maritime Artists
Today’s marine artists are carving out a collectors niche all of their own using a variety of media, often reflecting the digital age. While there are many to recognize, perhaps the most outstanding is James Allen Flood.
James Allen Flood’s “RMS” Titanic. Acrylic on canvas.
Flood (1944-) is known for his historically detailed ship paintings and backgrounds. He has created a new maritime painting genre of famous 20th century cruise ships, in addition to historical luxury liners. Born on the Fourth of July in Philadelphia, Pa., his love of ships began in childhood. At age 7 he used poster paints to paint “The Queen Mary at Sea.” Among his many honors include: presenting his painting of the Royal Yacht “Britannica” to the duke of Edinburg’s Trust in 1996; and the auctioning of his painting “Titanic 2” on a commemorative cruise on the Balmoral to highlight the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic in 2010. The Balmoral followed the same route as the Titanic.
Anne Gilbert is the author of a nationally self-syndicated antiques column “The Antique Detective,” the author of nine books on antiques and art, and a professional appraiser specializing in original illustrations and original political cartoons. Her early columns and feature stories are archived in Chicago’s Newberry Library section of “Outstanding Pioneer Women Journalists of the Midwest.” As an advocate for abused dogs, she has written her first novel, “Mayor of the Dog Park,” an e-Kindle book. You can e-mail Anne at Antique2@bellsouth.net.
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