The skillful combination of beautiful sky, picturesque background and accurately rendered vessel make this work an excellent example of the artistic ship portrait style of James Bard. The WILLIAM HARRISON is portrayed decked out with four prominent American flags and her gilded Pilot House Carved Eagle as she makes her way up the Hudson River.
This work concentrates fully on presenting an undistracted image of the steamboat, showing no passengers, a device Bard used throughout the later and most important period of his career. Note the classic perspective that draws the eye unerringly to the center of the composition and the use of tiny white dots making up the spray off the bow and paddlewheel to show movement. The original paint is in such excellent condition that the detailed touches of raised, thick oil are visible to the eye and the flags, windows, eagle, and elsewhere.
The 377.67 ton WILLIAM HARRISON [153'LOA x 26.2'B x 8.8D] was built at Keyport, New Jersey in 1864 by Benjamin Terry for C.W. Copeland of the Citizens Transportation Company. The vesselís namesake, William Harrison, owner of the company that fabricated her vertical beam steam engine, was the original owner of this painting.
A striking portrait of a very large American sidewheel paddle steamer on her maiden voyage from New York to Mobile, Alabama, and on from there to Havana, Cuba. The BLACK WARRIOR began the voyage in her home port of New York City. Bard has undoubtedly painted her in concert with either her listed builder, William Collyer of New York, whose name is included by the artist on the canvas, or the owners, Livingston, Crocheron & Co. Launched in 1852, the line soon moved its southern base to New Orleans, establishing a foothold in a region soon in direct competition with the Vanderbilt and Morgan families.
Her deep luster coloration is expertly portrayed by Bard. He has used draftmanship in composing the full outline of the steam/sail transition vessel, and then worked in painstaking detail to apply every touch of oil, down to the pointillist-style of the waterís wake against the hull and the top of the ocean swells. The brooding sky colors compliment the impressive heavy sense of the 1556-ton steam/sail paddlewheeler, with the flags brightly displayed before the clouded sky. Several gentlemen sailors are visible on deck, attending to the coastwise Atlantic journey. With the placement of the American Governmentís streaming pennant at the main mast top, undoubtably this included mail to the South, and possibly return news of the recent Gold Boom in California. She would stay on this route until a snow squall off Rockaway, Long Island put her aground on Feb. 20, 1859.