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Thomas Buttersworth
English (1768-1837)

Black X Packet TORONTO Off the Needles

An early American pioneering transatlantic packet, TORONTO of the New York-to-London Black X Line dominates the waterway off the Needles on the western edge of the Isle of Wight. The view show the American Packet’s stern with her name and home port vivid beneath an American ensign with an excess of red-and-white stripes. In a stylized manner, Thomas Buttersworth envisioned the remnants of a rain squall with an illuminating break in the center sky, an artistic element his descendant J.E. Buttersworth would incorporate in his paintings. Thomas rounds out the contingent of ships with a British Brig headed out, two smaller sailing yawls, most likely a pilot and an unusual fishing vessel following TORONTO to port, and distant vessels. The heights of the Isle of Wight and the rocky Needles make this location a welcome sight after a Transatlantic crossing.

TORONTO was built in 1835 by C. Bergh & Co. Of New York, alongside her near-identical sister ship, WESTMINISTER. Measuring 135'3"L x 32'2"B x 20'5"D, she weighed 631 Tons. Owned by founding brothers John Griswold of New York and Charles C. Griswold of Savannah, Georgia, the Black X Line began in 1812. TORONTO’s first captain was Robert Griswold, and future captain Charlie Low was a young crew-member. TORONTO would serve this route for 13 years before being put into the New York-to-New Orleans trade in 1848, and sinking off the coast of Cuba mysteriously in 1851. A highlight, she won a westerly crossing race with two steam liners in 1846 from Portsmouth to New York, making the travel in 41 days by heading north to avoid winter ice flows and a northwester that blew bitterly cold for weeks, beating the steamers by several days. Here, on possibly her maiden run, her bow slices the rolling rhythmic green swells blowing uncharacteristically eastward toward America.

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

PURITAN Races Towards The Narrows Off Brooklyn
American Yachts Off New York

A sloop with a plum bow, strongly believed to be famous PURITAN fresh off her successful America’s Cup defense in 1885, races with two schooners off the coast of Brooklyn and Staten Island in New York’s Lower Bay. A full rigged merchant sailing ship heads out under tow from a pilot steam tug, and several other sails fill “The Narrows”, the watery gap between the headlands on the approach to Upper New York Bay and the seaport of Manhattan. James E. Buttersworth earned his reputation as the premier artist of 19th Century American yachting, and while he painted through the Northeast, this is one of his favored locations.

The water of New York Bay is animated with a stiff breeze-driven chop, harmonious to the late afternoon setting sun, while seabirds stay just above the surface. While the light is still strong, the racers are headed to their home berths. PURITAN, owned and raced by John Malcom Forbes, was built in the New York Yard of George Lawley & Son in 1885. She triumphed in the defense of the America’s Cup in 1885 against the English challenge of Sir Richard Sutton and his Cutter GENESTA. PURITAN, with her compromise cutter hull / sloop rig, was one of th every first of her style built in America. She’d be the primary influence for MAYFLOWER which would win the Cup Defense the following year.

The New York headlands appear just distant enough to show little but their green foliage, and the sky varies to a sunny brilliance toward heavy clouds. The white hulled yacht was one of the very first so styled, after having her hull painted black for her Cup match. Soon, all others would follow suit.

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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)


A special portrait, the American clipper FOREST QUEEN cresting a mid-Atlantic Ocean swell makes a remarkable painting by the well-known 20th Century marine artist, Montague Dawson. The vertical portrayal does exactly what the artist chose, it illustrates the power of the sea and the strength of the ships and men that sailed as a career. Bright and bold colors make the sea, sky and ship come alive in frozen action on the canvas.

FOREST QUEEN was built by Thomas Jefferson Southard in Richmond, Maine in 1849, assisted by builder Alexander Stanwood. At 886 Tons, 158'5"L x 35'B x 17'6"D, she was one of Maine’s earliest true clippers. From his first vessels launched in the 1830s, the four Southard shipyards built between 75 and 100 ships up through the 1890s. Southard himself would become the principle founder of Richmond, owning numerous businesses, becoming postmaster, and then serving as a representative and senator to the Maine Legislature. He built the clipper for owner Rufus K. Page, whose namesake clipper built by Southard later became important to Juneau, Alaska, where a street today carries his name. Sailing for years, the FOREST QUEEN was involved in cross-Atlantic business out of New York for more than a decade, and kept away from service in the California Trade. Dawson garnered inspiration for this excellent work from those who knew the ship firsthand.

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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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Montague Dawson
British (1895-1973)

Ship Driving Onto the Aucklands

Rising to the desperate challenge, the crew on a ship in peril off a New Zealand coastline works to keep the sailing ship on course against massive storm-driven ocean swells. The rigging has let go in places, and a group of sailors climb the ratline up the main mast with the intent to hold together the primary rig to keep the ship off the headland. Dawson masterfully captures the dramatic danger. His innate skill at portraying high seas action combined in this instance with white-capped swells, one breaking on the ship’s bow, and a wet, wind-blown atmosphere, presents an artwork that is soft in tonal variation yet universally striking.

Starting in the 1840s, Britains were encouraged to emigrate to New Zealand, and many of those who served in the military forces took the opportunity to start fresh combined with the cheaper passage rates and available land. The port of Auckland was the principle harbor of the northern island. The ocean of the “Roaring Forties” are notorious for some of the strongest westwardly winds on the planet, very useful but precarious in their power over vast expanses of ocean without land, and sudden, drastic directional shifts.

Work by the artist continues to be in great demand. Dawson’s art would often hold specific identities, while others still had little to no clue as to the actual ship portrayed in the paintings, such as this example. We may confidently assume the artist has captured a specific story for this representation. First and foremost, he said that he painted for enjoyment, to live “in that moment of time” which he so expertly portrays on canvas.

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