Published: June 5, 2001
Marine Images at Roger King Gallery
NEWPORT, R.I. – The Roger King Gallery of Fine Art will open its summer season with expanded exhibition galleries and a new exhibit, “Marine Images .” The gallery is located on historic Bowen’s Wharf, the home of many classic sailing vessels and America’s Cup Twelve-Meter yachts.
Many of the masters of Nineteenth Century marine art, such as Clement Drew, Charles Gifford, James Hamilton, John Hill, Antonio Jacobsen, Edmund Darch Lewis, T.G. Purvis, Charles Raleigh, William Ritschel, Tomaso de Simone, William Pierce Stubbs, Frederick Tudgay and Wesley Webber are represented, as well as works of many others. Artists of the early-to-mid Twentieth Century, like Cal Luce, whose luminous watercolors recall those of Homer, the Fort Lauderdale “yacht portrait painter” Joe Selby, and the contemporary artist William R. Davis round out the show. Many of the works are by artists from the Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts, an area predictably rich in marine painting.
The influence of British painters is represented by a sampling of works including a charming late Romantic-era painting of a trio of ships off the headlands of the British Isles. In a setting worthy of a fairy tale, two small figures adrift in a tiny boat in the foreground make their way to an enormous cliff-top tower. Other European artists featured are Jock Wilson of Scotland, T.G. Purvis of Wales and Frederick Tudgay and John Hill of England.
Many of America’s outstanding marine painters were foreign-born and educated, and developed successful painting careers after emigrating to America. Today one of the most popular of these artists is Antonio Jacobsen (1850-1921), who painted hundreds of “ship portraits” during his career, many commissioned by shipping companies as official records of their fleets. Seven works by Jacobsen are displayed, including an early painting of 1874 of sidewheeler tugs on the Hudson.
Of special note is an outstanding pair of dramatic sunset scenes of ships at sea by Irish-American artist James Hamilton. The massive original gold-leaf frames, adorned with carved laurel leaves and lotus pods, are works of art in themselves. The paintings, which have not been previously exhibited outside the gallery, were acquired from the family that owned them continuously since the paintings were purchased from the artist in 1877.
A serene watercolor of Narragansett Bay by German-born Charles Mielatz (1864-1919); an energetic work by William Ritschel (1864-1949), a native of Nuremberg who settled in Carmel, Calif., and the sparkling “Susan Hinks Off the Coast of Naples” by Tomasso de Simone, a member of the Neapolitan family which excelled in painting ship portraits in the mid-Nineteenth Century, are among the diverse influences on marine artists, and among the most highly acclaimed is Charles H. Gifford (1839-1904) of New Bedford. Gifford is especially known for the small paintings (usually 8 by 12 inches) he called “my little gems.” In addition to several of these “little gems,” the gallery has three large canvases, which Gifford generally executed only by commission. The majestic “New Bedford, Palmer Island Lighthouse, Fort Phoenix and Fairhaven” rewards close scrutiny with a panoramic view of coastal New Bedford, of which Gifford said, “There is no area on the New England coast that would give me the material for study such as sunsets, moonlights, storms, etc.”
In adjoining galleries, a meticulously-detailed watercolor by Gifford entitled “Off Fairhaven” portrays the gentle luminism for which the artist is known.
Charles Raleigh, who was born in England in 1830, ran away from home at age ten, and spent the next 30 years at sea, is best known for his meticulous renderings of New Bedford whaling ships. When he settled in New Bedford at age 40 he established himself as a commercial marine artist. His work is represented here by a large painting of 1876 of a packet schooner off the New England coast.
The coastal areas of Newport have long fascinated painters, from the Nineteenth Century to the present. The particular confluence of ocean and shoreline, rocks and harbors, fields and ocean have lured both landscape and marine artists, leaving a rich art historical record of the region. One of the best-known of these artists is William Trost Richards (1833-1905), who once made his home in Newport and later in Jamestown on adjacent Conanicut Island. In the main gallery are two of his works, a delicate watercolor of Second beach which shows the artist’s mastery of the subtleties of sky and water, and a small oil painting of the now vanished Fort Dumpling that once occupied the southern end of Conanicut island. Two lush pastels by Newport artist George Brewerton (1820-1901), including a brooding view of the craggy Newport shoreline at sunset, are also located in the main gallery adjacent to the marine show.
Newport’s long association with sailing is reflected in many of the paintings, but two very different works provide a delightful contrast. One is a charming small (6 by 9 inches) work by an anonymous artist of catboats racing on Narragansett Bay; the other, a grand work by William Pierce Stubbs (1842-1909) depicts a critical moment in the America’s Cup Race of 1887 between the Scottish challenger Thisle and the American Volunteer.
Though the largest part of the marine collection is featured in the new exhibition gallery, other examples of seascapes, beach scenes, and ship portraiture can be found in the two adjoining rooms, interspersed with the gallery’s other collections of landscape, still life, and genre painting.
In addition to beach scenes by Aidan Lasell Ripley, Harold Breul and contemporary artists Gerry Caron and Brian Becken and seascapes by William Halsell, James Gale Tyler, and Robert Henry Logan, there are genre and landscapes scenes of Cape Cod by early Twentieth Century artist Paul Moro and the extensive collection of watercolors by Cal Luce, whose estates are both handled by the Roger King Gallery.
During the summer the gallery is open from 10 am to 6 pm and most evenings. It is at 21 Bowen’s Wharf, second and third floors. For more information, 401-847-4359.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm