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Julian O. Davidson
American (1853-1894)

USS Constitution in Action Against HMS Guerriere

A naval battle scene from the War of 1812, this work by Julian O. Davidson captures a dramatic turning point for the American Navy, the first significant defeat of a British Sailing Warship by a Naval Frigate. No less a vessel than U.S.S. CONSTITUTION is firing a broadside on approach at the distressed H.M.S. GUERRIERE, after her mizzen mast has toppled, limiting her maneuvering for position. The scene glows with action and the harsh reality of nautical combat.

Breaking the British dominance of naval warfare, the ship commanded by Captain Isaac Hull, met H.M.S. GUERRIERE under the command of Captain James Dacres on August 17, 1812 after the British officer issued a direct challenge. Dacres was so confident that he promised his crew 4 months pay for a 15-minute victory, but things didn’t go as he planned. Approximately 45 minutes of sailing for dominant positioning with some long-range volleys, and the ships closed to raked each other with cannon broadsides. While the British mizzen mast was splintered, some shots actually bounced off the sides of the American oak ship, birthing her now famous ‘Old Ironsides’ nickname.

This captured moment, of CONSTITUTION coming around with another broadside is the decisive moment of battle, her guns barraging the British who try to respond. On the next approach, GUERRIERE was surrendered. Davidson does a proper homage to the victory and devastation, with cannons flaring and the red glow reflecting in the smoke, men high in the rigging and low in the sea. The artistic effort by Davidson invokes the tragic wonder and awe that a marine artist seeks from his audience, even with the outcome apparent.

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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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Henry Scott
British (1911-2005)

Stunsails Wide

A bright sky serves as a background to fast-moving merchant sailing ship on a deep-toned rolling ocean in this oil painting by maritime enthusiast and artist Henry Scott. The medium clipper, tall at five courses of sail up her masts, employs stuns’ls at the extreme lengths of her yards, using the extra canvas to push ahead of her competitor on the horizon.

Scott, an artistic fixture amongst the wharfs of Liverpool, was well familiar with some of the last Clipper Ships sailing. His professional association with the Master Mariners of Liverpool kept him recording the great ships of his days and the historic vessels and stories personally recounted to him by the men who lived those moments. The tea trade and racing to be the first ship to market were some of the most prominent stories told, but far from the only ones. Epic storms, fast passages and chance encounters over the world’s oceans all make appearances in his artworks. Crew members manning the forward rail would have some interesting tales to tell.

Illuminating the canvas work of Scott’s textured brush strokes, which in this case are intentionally capturing the direction of the natural elements. One of several artists to follow in the wake of Marine Master Montague Dawson, Scott was also represented by Frost & Reed Galleries. In this case, Scott is careful to show neither the ship’s carved figurehead or nameboard to concrete his subject ship’s identity. Scott chose her instead to be representative of a great many of the last “Wooden Walls” of the world’s merchant sailing ships.

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Warren Sheppard
American (1858-1937)

Yacht CORNELIA at the New York Yacht Club Regatta

A memorable American yacht racing moment, preserved as art, has several schooners owned by members of the New York Yacht Club racing in their annual summer regatta on June 11, 1874. Prominent in the center of this painting is CORNELIA, owned by Dr. Joseph Vondy. Vondy was a member of both the N.Y.Y.C. and the Jersey City Yacht Club, and most likely directly commissioned artist Warren Sheppard. Closest in competition is the Schooner VISION, owned by member J.S. Alexandre with his family’s burgee atop the main, and a nearby top-sail schooner. In the distance is believed the event’s winner, John Walker’s Schooner GRACIE. The Sandy Hook Lighthouse is a small white sliver of a tower, visible above CORNELIA’s stern rail and light-brightened sails.

Sheppard was well known in the late 19th Century New York art world, and a proponent of maritime activities. This era saw changes in American yacht racing, with a growing audience, the publication of the first yachting annual, Fox’s in 1872, and the international debate over measures and ratings that would dominate the coming decade. The New York club’s outside ocean course offered a different challenge, and the big schooners excelled over it. CORNELIA, built in 1873 by James McGarrick, measured a respectable 65' 8".

The atmosphere is full of heavy, darker clouds, and CORNELIA has turned into the headlong wind. VISION is preparing to come about, and the rolling swells are breaking against their sharp hulls. The annual regatta, first held in 1845 just after the birth of the club, took slightly more than six hours to complete this year. CORNELIA would leave the club’s list by 1877. James E. Buttersworth would also paint this race near the Sandy Hook Lightship; his painting today is in the Mystic Maritime Museum collection.

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John Stobart
Anglo-American (1929-)

Ship N.B. PALMER off the Golden Gate
San Francisco

A stalwart American Clipper Ship, N.B. PALMER launched in 1851 out of Jacob Westervelt’s New York yard. Named after the renown Stonington, Connecticut sea captain and ship designer Nathaniel Brown Palmer, whose exploits include becoming a ship’s captain at 21, and soon after being the first American captain to discover the Antarctic Peninsula. The namesake clipper ship, owned by A.A. Lowe & Brother, sailed for the company for years in the China Trade. The Lowe’s were very successful with their Chinese business dealings, and owned several of earliest American clippers built.

The artist John Stobart is known for being an exacting historian as well as a leading marine artist. Well proportioned with sleek lines, the ship sails over an excellent portrayal of the Pacific Ocean and vast bright sky. Distant ships near the California headland are in view. His precise details reveal more about the 202' large clipper; her Merchant Code flags are up the hoist above the American ensign, and she slices a speedy wake as she cuts across the open water. Stobart painted a superior blend of sunlight and shadows on the sails. In 1858, she set a record of 82 days from Shanghai to New York.

“Captain Nat” as he was informally known, was directly involved in the design of the first American Clipper. One story reports he carved the wood hull model of Low’s Clipper HOUQUA while sailing home from China as captain of the ship PAUL JONES in 1843. The Low’s showed their respect by hiring him as their marine advisor, and later by naming this remarkable vessel after him while he was an active ship owner himself. Stobart honors their shared history with this top-quality artwork.

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David Thimgan
American (1955-2003)

McKay's Clipper STAGHOUND Leaving San Francisco

A classic broadside of the first Donald McKay extreme medium clipper launched, STAGHOUND, on her maiden voyage departing San Francisco for China. Her extreme sharp lines and deadrise were offset against a reduced cargo capacity and almost no bilge in a quest for speed- but the clipper performed well enough to start a significant run of building American extreme clippers. Built in New York and sold to Sampson & Tappan, STAGHOUND left on Feb. 1, 1851. She sailed to San Francisco, on to Canton and home to New York. She achieved her entire cost of building and operating for her owners, plus a tidy $80,000 profit in this maiden voyage.

STAGHOUND launched at 215' L x 39'8" B x 21' D from McKay’s own design. The extreme sharpness of her lines, while attractive and unique, didn’t prove to hold the maximum speed he was looking for, but led him to his greatest success with FLYING FISH and WESTWARD HO, also built and owned by Samson & Tappan. It is written that this group is the fastest sailing ship ever built for one owner by a single builder. Thimgan’s beautiful broadside portrayal off San Francisco catches STAGHOUND on the first of her six Cape Horn voyages. This is an excellent early example of the brilliance of light and motion that Thimgan was able to portray in his best work.

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