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Charles Camoin
French (1879-1965)

Ramatuelle

Above the edge of the city of Ramatuelle on the Saint Tropez Peninsula, a herdsman takes in the view of the Mediterranean glory beyond the city. The medieval town his today home to the luxurious beach of Pampelonne, playground of the world’s wealthiest. In Camoin’s time, it is still primarily a small town, situated near Gassin and immortal San Tropez. The homogenous architectural style of Spanish clay and red-tile roofs is in common use, in contrast to today’s elegant hotels and resorts.

Touches of earthy brown build the foreground hillside and feed the growth of the largest green tree that brackets the reaches of the painting. Interesting to note that the artist used a suggestive, skipping stroke here and for the rooftops he was more concerned with the geometric parallel lines and deep tones depressions between the tiles.

Deep lush foliage cuts the coastal hills and canyons in this view, and the idle sense is that the day is more relaxed and less frenzied than today’s pace. The ocean is a deep blue, the sky is lightened with clouds beyond the trees, and no one cares if the man is at leisure while the two blackish goats hit the canvas as shadowy spectres, oblivious to our watching presence. The artist strode this canyon, and found a pleasant escape for us all..

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Jean Pierre Cassigneul
French (1935-)

Les Tents Bleu

An absolutely superior work by artist Jean Pierre Cassigneul, on a glance this painting of a woman walking her little dog on a beach boardwalk is instantly appealing. Subsequent views make this charming narrative portrait even more so. The vibrancy of the use of primary colors invokes a clean, bright simplicity to their world, and the slightly exaggerated, lithe stature of the central woman and a yellow-dressed companion sliding off stage right make a viewer wish to visit more of their stories.

The linear flow of the painting translates the ocean’s distance and dark-blue horizon’s depth, and delineates the boardwalk’s wood planks to the stretch of white-sand beach. The French-style blue beach tents capture the work’s title, while the partial flag overhead and a colorful patterned scarf compete for the attention of the breeze. The small brown dog is having none of it, ready for the leash-holder to began again after her introspective pause.

One would be remiss not to notice the fashion present: beret and floral pin accent the first woman’s outfit in contrast to the fore-mentioned scarf, and the modest yet feminine 1920s cut of the dresses complete with coordinated heels, and the “graffito” belt, created in the thick oil by the artist’s linear cross-hatched scratches . A overall very desirable work by Cassigneul, an artist we feel is increasing in esteem and demand.

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Chinese School
Chinese (1775-1900)

Macao

The oldest European buildings in China are along the once curved crescent shore of the Praya Grande, where the Portuguese explorers established and fortified their trading foothold with an entire continent. When they arrived in 1553, the small fishing village overlooked by a temple of an ocean goddess immediately became an important cultural center of the world, with the initial interactions between the East and West. Ever since, this port loaded with temples and churches has played a role in the cosmopolitan course of world trade. (The harbor is extensively filled in and built upon today.)

In this view, more than 300 years after the Dutch established contact in the early 17th Century and western ships first sailed in the harbor, a British Sidewheel Steamer is in the port of Macao, surrounded by more than 20 Chinese vessels. The artist’s perspective, looking northwest towards the Praya Grande’s center, brings Praha Hill and its stone stairway in view, with the church on top. The inlaid stone walkway of the port city is full of human figures, one wearing a special red jacket while the rest wear blue or white. One westerner in a top hat at the stern post of the closest Chinese ship directs its crew outward bound. As a natural harbor and a point of first contact, many sailors were required to remain at Macao, while some ships would anchor and others would push on to Whampoa. Only the merchants and captains directly involved in the negotiations of buying and selling were allowed access up the river beyond Whampoa to Canton. Travel would be via local craft only. From the Chinese artists who produced port and ship paintings directly for their nautical visitors, paintings of Macao are substantially rarer than other views.

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Chinese School
Chinese (1775-1900)

View of the Hongs, Canton

Sought by collectors worldwide, art and artifacts showing an early western presence in the Orient boomed with the opening of the China Trade by way of the sailing ship. The surviving paintings which capture the important Chinese harbors of the 18th and 19th Centuries with western merchants are at the top of such a list of desirable items.

Showing the American, British and Danish flags over their respective factory houses, the Pearl River traffic bustles beneath the shore of Canton city’s edge. Foreign merchants and captains had to anchor off Whampoa, down the river, and travel by junk, sampan or other transport operated by the local mariners, using a wide variety of propulsion, as shown. No firearms, women and very few average crewmen were allowed to travel upriver to Canton. Though all seemed to make their way upriver anyway, if in secret.

This example, showing great coloration and detail, represents the height of the international tea trade and the period of record sailings by the clipper ships. No less than forty people occupy the many vessels on the river, all playing a part in the vast trade.

A large decorated cruising barge floats in the background as musicians play traditional Chinese instruments accompanied by a singer, likely serenading guests with popular selections from Peking-style operas. An important looking official stands on the high rear deck of his ship as many oars propel him forward. A fisherman’s single oar craft overloaded with fish, navigates through the larger ships, making his way to sell the catch.

Note the shoreline’s wealth of trees and foliage between the hongs and river, mostly planted in the 1840s by an American indemnity fund company. At this point, there is even a Western church before the British factory, at the end of Hog’s Road, which was built in 1847. A second great Canton fire in 1856 destroyed most of this area, and it was never fully rebuilt. Paintings like this form an important and historic record of a time and way of life now lost to history.

Set in its original gilt Chinese Chippendale frame.

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Montague Dawson
British (1895-1973)

Heave Away, Racing Cutters

A trio of English racing cutters compete over an ocean course in this lively mixed-media watercolor and gouache work by maritime art master Montague Dawson. The challenge of yachting skill is quantified by speed, and the crew of each yacht knows it must act as a harmonious unit to get the most out of their cutters. With the helmsman hard on the tiller to brace the rudder, the two sailors are heaving the main sail to turn the cutter yacht back into the wind. Once the trailing yachts make their turn, the three vessels will all have the task of tacking into the breeze to make the finish line.

Dawson excelled at realistic portrayals while keeping his art fluid and loose. Unmatched in his portrayal of the chaotic power of the ocean, here he has caught a moment with the lead cutter dipping the starboard rail deep, leveraging every tool available to make the brisk turn and keep the lead. The full sails of the chasing yachts shows the prevailing wind’s headlong direction. The mix of media allows Dawson a freer, flowing style. He excelled in yacht subjects of this media in the 1930s.

As an artist, Dawson strove for realism while mastering the artistic aesthetics. The individual character of the three yachtsmen in the cutter’s deep cockpit is remarkable, and one may actually feel their rising spirits as they lead the match. Their competition is still in sight, and they know that victory is round this mark and to be found across the finish line.

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Childe Hassam
American (1859-1935)

Church Point, Portsmouth
Original Illustration Art

A charming watercolor created as the key illustration for the essay, “Pedaling on the Piscataqua” in the 1883 issue of the cycling enthusiast magazine, The Wheelman. This was the first and best of eight works that renowned artist Childe Hassam created for the article, spread into two parts over the April and June issues of the magazine.

The article details a three day journey made by “marine bicycle” along the Piscataqua River on the border of New Hampshire and Maine and out to the Isle of Shoals in the autumn of 1882. These hydrocycles, or “aquatic velocipedes”, were a recent innovation and impressive watercraft even for their day. Able to move forward by sail or the use of pedal-powered propellers, and capable of navigating the open ocean as well as the tricky waters of the Piscataqua around Portsmouth Harbor, rated as having one of the fastest tidal currents in North America.

Here Hassam illustrates them with the sail set as a sunshade as the cyclists pass Church Point, so named for the North Church of Portsmouth, New Hampshire whose spire is clearly visible in the background. A historic and important landmark even in Hassam’s day, the church dates to the 17th century and was spiritual home to several important Americans such as Daniel Webster and John Langdon as well as welcoming then President George Washington to services.

Rendered on toned paper with white bodycolor used to highlight the piece and give wonderful texture to the sky, Hassam created a refined design and striking composition. A series of small lateen rigged sailboats sit tied to the dock near a sailor, a fisherman and a small boy all of whom stare in wonder at the usual watercraft coming into view.

Unable to cycle on land due to poor road conditions, the author and his group married their first love of boating on the river with their new passion of cycling. Able to face forward while paddling was a great advantage over the rowboat and the upright seats lifted their riders high and dry on twin pontoons.

Masterfully rendered and styled by one of the most celebrated American artists of the period, this work embodies all the wonder and optimism of the late 19th century. Sophisticated and, for the time, modern graphic design elements are married to a fine landscape with American historic landmarks, the best of old and new. This excellent illustration brings to life both a specific journey and the zeal of 19th century adventurers for the sea and the latest innovations of the machine age.

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