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J Russell Jinishian
Mr Jinishian was director of Mystic Maritime Gallery, America’s largest gallery specialising in marine art, from 1985 to 1995. He now operates a private gallery and
lectures widely on marine art. This excerpt from “Bound for Blue Waters” is reproduced with his kind permission
ost people consider Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom (1560-1640) to be the grandfather of the marine art tradition. He was the first artist to
master the difficulties of accurately painting the complex planes of ships and sea, wind and atmospheric conditions. Vroom travelled widely and his work reflected the close
artistic contact between England and Holland during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.
Vroom had one primary pupil, Jan Porcellis (1584-1632), who further developed this Dutch realism by emphasizing the ship’s relationship to nature.
Simon de Vlieger (1600-1653) became the master of the Dutch realist school of marine painting, and he taught Willem van de Velde the Younger
(1633-1707). Willem the Younger and his father, Willem the Elder (1611-1693), were destined to become the foremost marine painters
of their time. Through these men the realist tradition arrived on English shores.
Throughout the latter half of the seventeenth century, the Dutch and the English were constantly at war, vying for dominance of the world’s sea trade routes. In 1672, during a
break in hostilities, the Van de Veldes moved to Greenwich, where they were employed by King Charles, who provided them with a studio at Queen's house (now a part of the National
Maritime Museum) and paid them 100 pounds per year to document battles at sea.
Willem the Elder, the son of a shipmaster, combined his knowledge of the sea with a mastery of drawing as he sailed into battles with the English fleets, recording
them in literally thousands of sketches. These were often used by Willem the Younger to create finished paintings of the battles.
Not only are Van de Veldes’ drawings beautiful, they also provide the only first‑hand records of what many of those vessels and actions. They never had
any direct pupils, but other artists learned from them by studying their paintings.
One such artist was Peter Monamy (1681-1748). In his paintings of the rugged English coastline, Monamy incorporated the Van de Veldes'
understanding of ships with Porcelli’s emphasis on atmospheric conditions. But no one emulated the Van de Veldes quite as well as Samuel
Scott (1702-1772), considered the “English Van de Velde”. Scott also absorbed the influences of Italian artist Canaletto (1679-1768).
Canaletto visited England and painted there for many years, beginning in 1746 His emphasis on coastal architecture, ship variety and the crisp light and strong colour of his
native Venice, had a deep impact on the English painters of the day.
Other notable English painters of the period include Charles Brooking (1723-1759), a child of the Deptford dockyards who specialized in shipping scenes in the Dutch
Dominic Serres (1772-1793) was born in Gascony, France; he ran away to sea and became a merchant captain in the West Indies. He later enlisted on a Spanish ship
that was taken by the English and arrived in England as a prisoner in 1756. Once free, he became a friend of Charles Brooking. With Brooking's encouragement, Serres began to paint
marine pictures and eventually became the marine artist to the court of King George III and a member of the Royal Academy. His son, John Thomas Serres (1759-1825),
published Liber Nauticus (1805).
Other important British marine painters included Nicholas Pocock (1740-1821) and Thomas Luny (1759-1837), a naval purser turned artist. The
paintings of battles and seas by former naval midshipman Thomas Buttersworth (1768-1842) were widely known even in America because of the steel engravings that had
been made of them. But it was Thomas’s son (or grandson, the debate still goes on), James Edward Buttersworth (1817-1894), who was fated to make a much more
important contribution to the field.
In America in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries artists went to Europe to train, and most art, save those portraits by itinerant painters, came from Europe. In
1835, the Western world entered an era of relative peace that lasted unabated virtually until World War I. For marine art, this had several implications. Because wars were not being
fought, paintings of sea battles were not as important. The emphasis now was on moving cargo quickly and efficiently across the oceans of the world, and a new style of ship was
needed. Warships gave way to clipper ships, designed to transport cargo fast.
Developments in ship design, combined with increased prosperity and leisure time, resulted in the creation of another fascinating class of new boats – yachts. Soon, harbours
were full not only of majestic clippers, but also with magnificent pleasure yachts.
These developments were not lost on marine artists. They embraced these new subjects with a passion. As America prospered and the American market for art grew, more European artists
were being attracted to America. Englishman James Buttersworth arrived in New Jersey, in 1845, already skilled in marine painting, and began to work for printmaker Nathaniel
Currier. His paintings of clipper ships – incorporating the subtle Dutch‑toned palette, the dramatic use of light and dark, and scenes of ships in rough seas – had
immediate appeal in his new country.
When he arrived in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1829, Liverpool painter Robert Salmon (1775-1845) was well known for his complex port paintings of Glasgow, Liverpool
and Greenock. He supported himself in Boston by painting theatre sets and by selling paintings of England and Scottish ports, which homesick recent immigrants were happy to
purchase. But he also applied his skills to the Boston area ports.
The first bona fide American marine artist was Fitz Hugh Lane (1804-1865). A native of Cape Ann, Massachusetts, Lane incorporated what we saw in Salmon's work, but
added something all his own, so that his paintings of Boston and the New England coast capture the light and topography of the time in a distinctive way.
The marine tradition was to find its own uniquely American characteristics, combining the best of the Dutch realist tradition with the new adventurous spirit of America.
Thomas Cole, Thomas Moran, Frederick Church and Alfred Bierstadt formed the core of the Hudson River school, which placed natural
beauty at centre stage.
Two of the finest artists that America has ever produced were working at this time, and both had a strong interest in marine subject matter. Thomas Eakins
(1844-1916) was well known for his methodical, mathematical approach to composition. The lean, angular shapes of scullers on a river and the architecture of the Schuylkill River
bridges provided perfect opportunities for him to apply his principles.
In contrast to Eakins's planned method, Winslow Homer (1836-1910) often painted in watercolour on the spot. Homer travelled widely, but he always returned to his
first love – the sea. He studied the sea incessantly from his studio in Prout’s Neck, Maine, combining his powers of observation with his skills as a successful
illustrator to create paintings with big shapes, bold strokes and tremendous visceral power.
At about the same time, in New Jersey, watercolorist Frederick Shiller Cozzens (1856-1928) was making a name for himself as a chronicler of the coastal yachting
scene. An avid sailor, Cozzens was known for his portfolio of Civil War chromolithographs before he began concentrating on yachts.
Europe was still a strong influence for many American artists who were visiting or studying there. In England, the marine art tradition was in the hands of arguably the greatest
English painter of all time-Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851). His work ranges from large, formal sea battle paintings, like the Battle
of Trafalgar, which is very much in the line of the Dutch realist tradition, to Snow Storm, a nearly abstract painting for which he is said to have had himself lashed
to the mast during a snowstorm in the English Channel in order to observe and capture the effects of a maelstrom.
On the Continent, artists had broken away from the strict academic studios and had begun painting outdoors, directly from nature. These impressionists –
Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Vincent Van Gogh, Eugene Boudin, George Seurat – began to apply their new approach of direct colour to the
painting of the waters and harbours in and around Europe.
In America, artists like Albert Pinkham Ryder were rendering marine subjects in a visionary, allegorical way, while early, twentieth‑century painters like
Edward Hopper, John Marin and George Bellows were painting marine scenes with bold, fresh colours and strokes.
Throughout all these developments, one particular aspect of marine art – ship portraiture – was kept alive by shipowners and seamen who still demanded straightforward,
accurate depictions of their vessels. Devoid of great interpretive artistry, these portraits were simply intended to be accurate renderings of the ships. The champion ship
portraitists of all time are the Roux family of Marseille, France: Joseph Roux (1725-1793); his son, Joseph Ange-Antoine Roux (1764-1835); and his
three grandsons, Frederic (1805-1870), Francois Geoffroi (1811-1882), and Mathieu-Antoine (1779-1872).
In China, ship portraiture was another way to make money from the ships that regularly arrived from the West. It is said that artists had canvases prepared in advance – with a
clipper ship and often the harbour background already painted in – and all that was needed was the ship’s name and a few details, and the portrait could be ready for
purchase before the ship dropped anchor.
In late nineteenth and early twentieth century America, two artists dominated the ship portrait scene. If you wanted a portrait of a steamboat, you went to see the twin Bard
Brothers – James (1815-1897) and John (1815-1856), whose straight, almost folksy renderings of ships were extremely accurate
depictions. Although the Bards produced about 420 paintings, it was Danish born artist Antonio Gaspare Jacobsen (1850-1921) who was the colossus of the time. He
painted an estimated 6,000 ship portraits.
These artistic activities of the past three centuries helped us arrive at where we are today, and a few artists carried the mantle of marine art into the mid-twentieth century-
Englishmen Arthur Briscoe (1873-1943) and, most notably, Montague Dawson, who painted from World War I right through to his death
in 1973. Extremely prolific, Dawson painted the clipper ship, rolling along in a white capped sea, that helped form the quintessential image that many people still associate with
marine painting. In America, artists were enriching the field in a variety of directions, from the classic ship paintings of James Gale Tyler (1855-1931) and
Frank Vining Smith (1879-1967),to the working schooners and square rigs of Gordon Grant (1875-1962)and N. C. Wyeth (1882-1945), and also the actual
seamen turned artists, Charles Robert Patterson (1878-1958) and Anton Otto Fischer (1882-1962).
All of these past influences came together in the latter part of the twentieth century to give rise to a new group of artists, dedicated to turning their talents toward this
traditional art form.
Today’s marine artists are exploring every aspect of life in and around the sea with a vigour and energy that has never been before – and we have the richest, largest,
and most varied body of marine art than at any other time in history.
Maritime art Greenwich Maritime Museum a searchable
database of their priceless collection of marine paintings
J Russell Jinishian Gallery Contemporary and antique marine art from Europe and America
Art Marine Paintings and limited edition prints by British artists
Peabody Essex Maritime Art collection
By Julian Stockwin
s a writer of historical naval adventure I draw inspiration from many things. In my study, I have a collection of eighteenth century sea artefacts – a
fathom‑long piece of hawser that reeks wonderfully of Stockholm tar and the briny deep; a sea service cutlass from 1805, an ugly weapon whose nicked blade is evidence of
at least one bloody enemy engagement; 200‑year old musket balls, some identical to the one that killed Nelson. At my writing desk I have a hi‑fi on which I can play
haunting music about the time – like Tom Bowling or The Old Superb – or, thanks to sound effects from the computer, listen to cries of seagulls, a
Bosun's call, or even a thunderous broadside. The bookcases in my little room of course are full of nautical books, ship's logs, the diaries of seamen. And on what free space
there is on the walls I have charts and maps – and one special hook close by on my right. What goes on that hook very much depends on what I am writing at the time. But
more of that later?.
It's hard to say which of these varied sources of inspiration is more important to me but certainly the work of the great maritime artists brings a dimension of its own to the
creative process when I am writing. Several years ago I was honoured to be invited to speak at the Royal Society of Marine Artists. I chose as my topic the differences and
similarities between the artist and the novelist dealing with the great age of fighting sail. Both are obviously involved in doing their best to bring the past to life but whereas
the artist chooses a certain pivotal moment in time, the writer constructs a series of vignettes, linked by a story line. I might add that it is quite humbling for a writer to look
on a great canvas where everything the artist is trying to convey is recorded in one image: that costs me 100,000 words!
I can't speak for other authors, but it takes me about six months' writing time to complete one of my books, after I have done the research and planning. Until I became a
writer I must admit I didn't give much thought to the amount of time involved in the process of creating a painting. One artist, whose work I greatly admire, when asked what was the
secret of his fine canvases, replied, “It's the 850 hours they take to paint.”
An aspect both artist and novelist must respect is accuracy and faithful depiction of the times. It can only bring disrepute to the memory of those iron men in wooden ships if this
is not the case. And in my dealings with various modern maritime artists I have been extremely impressed with the amount of research they undertake before putting brush to
canvas. I was not surprised to learn that Geoff Hunt went to the trouble of contacting the Royal Observatory for the altitude and azimuth of the sun at a certain latitude and
longitude at an exact moment in history for his painting “Victory Races Temeraire for the Enemy Line.” I often refer to paintings to confirm some
aspect or other that I have researched. Although I have an extensive reference library, quite often seeing, for example, the set of sails on a certain tack or the
characteristic curve of a full drawing sail's shadow on another gives me the impetus to make this come alive without sounding a bit like a sailing manual.
I have a huge admiration for the giants of the past – Charles Brooking, Peter Monamy, Dominic Serres, Thomas Whitcombe, Samuel Scott, John Cleverley and Nicholas Pocock
– and of course, for sheer atmosphere, Turner. They provide a contemporary window on the world of Thomas Kydd. And as I look on them I can feel some of the wonder the ordinary
man of those times would feel on seeing what was then the most complicated machine on earth. A ship‑of‑the‑line was the moon rocket of its time.
But just as a number of the novels from the eighteenth century can seem hard going for the modern reader, I feel some of the modern interpreters of the age of sail bring a vitality
and freshness to the scene that is not found in the old masters. I think of painters like John Chancellor, Geoff Hunt, Derek Gardner, Mark Myers. I have their works gracing
virtually every room of my home, and which are not only a source of inspiration, but visual delights in their own right. Fortunately my wife Kathy shares my love of sea art!
I remember being very flattered when I received an email from Austin Hawkins, a noted art authority in the UK, who compared what he called my “artistry with words” to
the work of John Chancellor. He concluded by saying that he felt Chancellor would have been “enormously enthusiastic about your novels, seeing you as a kindred
As it happens Kathy and I have a print of Chancellor's magnificent “Victory in Pursuit of Nelson” hanging over the fireplace in the living room. It
just seems so right there, and I must admit I have to stand with legs firmly apart when I look at it, so realistic is the feeling that I am back at sea.
You can look at this painting as a splendid rendition of a proud ship at sea, or you can see it as Chancellor's frozen moment in time – 25 May, 1803, 3pm. The wind is W by S,
4‑5, she's steering S by W, making 6‑7 knots. There's a swell from W by N due to the previous days being dominated by N to NW winds.
One of the fascinating things about Chancellor's paintings is the detail. Come up very close to “Victory in Pursuit of Nelson” and you will even see a man using
the heads! And the tracery of rigging has exactly the right sort of tension curve to be expected at that precise point of the roll.
We have three of Derek Gardner's watercolour prints – “Glory and Valiant”, “Orion” and “Defence” in our
home. Derek's attention to detail is exemplary and an added bonus is the setting of two of these – Berry Head in Devon, only a few miles from where we live, the southerly
point of Torbay, then a very important naval anchorage. These three paintings of Gardner's, in muted autumn tonings, combine both the majesty of sail and a timeless quality. They
have pride of place in our dining room.
When my British publisher Hodder & Stoughton's then Editorial Director Roland Philipps announced that they were going to commission Geoff Hunt to paint the covers of my books I
was thrilled. I had long admired Geoff's work, and over the years since we have developed a friendship based on respect for each other's interpretation of the sea and ships. The
movement of a frigate in the Great Southern Ocean that he captured in the cover for my second book is exceptionally dynamic – and certainly summed up the flying qualities of
the crack frigate HMS Artemis and is probably my favourite.
Visitors are greeted with this wonderful image as they enter our hallway and move along a gallery of Geoff's covers. I think his painting of L’Orient exploding at the
Battle of the Nile, that graces the cover of Tenacious is to my mind one of the most evocative paintings I
have ever viewed of a battle scene.
That's the thing with the maritime art – it is such a rich reference source of minute detail aboard ship, rigging, sea conditions, the look of the sky. But also, with
the finest exemplars of the genre, it is a stimulation of something fundamental in man's psyche, and evokes a deep emotion for the sea that holds as true today as it did centuries
Earlier I mentioned the special hook I have in my study. On this I hang whatever painting is appropriate to the scene I am writing; Kathy good‑naturedly indulges this
musical chairs of our paintings! Let me explain a bit more. I am often asked do I live near the sea – but I could not bear to look out over the sea as I work; if I was
trying to craft the sublime scene of a moon‑dappled night sea I would find it impossible if there were a gale blowing outside. Likewise, trying to conjure up the wrath of the
sea during a storm would be very difficult should I look out and see a glittering sunlit seascape. The sea is too powerful to ignore. It's the same with the artwork around me when I
write. As I was working on the dramatic events of the notorious Mutiny at the Nore I hung Geoff Hunt's wonderfully atmospheric painting “Treason's Harbour”. Not the same
topic, but he captured the sense of menace and drama that I was trying to bring to my writing. And when I took my hero Kydd to the Caribbean and Antigua, what better than Geoff's
“HMS Trusty in English Harbour” to bring to life those tropic climes?
So, what's hanging there at the moment? Well, as I write this I am just beginning work on my tenth book, which sees my hero back in his beloved ship Teazer. In the hot spot
is a splendid rendition in watercolour of a brig sloop (Weazel) by Mark Myers.
This article was first published in the journal The Fighting Top
Dictionary of Sea Painters by E H H Archibald, Antique Collectors Club. A standard reference for marine painting collectors. Nearly
1200 artists are documented and listed. The late E H H Archibald was for many years curator of paintings at the British National Maritime Museum.
Marine Painting in England 1700‑1900 by David Cordingly, Studio Vista ISBN 0289 703 778 The lives and painting methods of some 50
artists who took as their subjects ships and the sea–from the arrival of the van de Veldes in London in the late seventeenth century to masters like Pocock and Luny in the
Bound for Blue Water by J Russell Jinishian, Greeenwich Workshop Press ISBN 086 713 0881 Superbly presented, with over 200 colour
reproductions of paintings, scrimshaw and sculpture, Russell Jinishian's book is a tribute to the best American marine art of the twentieth and twenty first century.
A Celebration of Marine Art by Royal Society of Marine Artists, Bounty Books ISBN 0 7537 1139 7 An updated edition of the splendid
volume published ten years ago celebrating the work of the members of the RSMA. Great sailing ships, darkened waters of war, working vessels on river and ocean–and carefree
The Maritime Paintings of John Chancellor by Rita Chancellor & Austin Hawkins, David & Charles ISBN 7153 85984 After a career
at sea on small ships, Chancellor turned to painting. He died in 1984, at a comparatively young age, and this work was published posthumously. Many of Chancellor's paintings exactly
recreate a real incident in date, place, time of day and sea state.
Twentieth Century Marine Painting by Denys Brook‑Hart Antique Collectors' Club ISBN 090 2028 901 Published in 1981 and now
difficult to come by, this is an invaluable source of information on the major British marine artists of the last century.
The Wapping Group of Artists. Seafarer Books. ISBN 0 9547062 5 0 Since 1946 this group, “the last proper artists’
society in England”, has met to paint the Thames en plein air. A celebration of this famous river in all her moods.