Art History:   Grade 3 Lesson 7

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Art Periods

  Red White and Blue Art - Maritime Art

Materials List

  1. Beach at Newport, c.1850-60, John Frederick Kensett,  (1816-1872), oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, reproduction print.
    Kensett first visited Newport in 1854, when it was just reviving as a summer resort. In Newport, as in the other popular vacation spots he visited, the summer residents provided important patronage. For these buyers, the artist created idyllic scenes to brighten their urban homes. Like many of Kensett’s works, this painting is composed of simple elements – horizontal bands of sky above and water below, separated by the horizon – and includes a traditional framing device – typically, here, rocks and trees. Kensett liked to call attention to physical details, emphasizing the shoreline’s rocks and sand. The two small figures initially entice the viewer into the painting and establish a human scale, but as the eye is led above and beyond, the sky assumes a greater importance. In contrast to the land and water, with their clear distinctions, the gray sky is cloudless and limitless.
    Ship St. Mary’s Entering Harbor at Mobile, 1860, J.G. Evans, ( ),oil on canvas, Hirschl and Adler Galleries, New York, reproduction print.
    This was painted in 1860 and is the St. Mary’s as it entered the harbor at Mobile, Alabama. During the Civil War, many naval vessels were involved in a battle in this harbor. St. Mary’s is under full sail on a choppy windy day. There are many other ships in the distance and some porpoises frolicking in the water ahead of the ship. Painting ships involved a lot of skill and knowledge about ships and rigging. Evans was a marine and historical painter and was very active during this period.
  2. Fog Warning, 1885, Winslow Homer,  (1836-1910), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, reproduction print.
    Homer was born in Boston of an old New England family. As a young man he was apprenticed to a leading lithographer in Boston. He moved to New York in 1859 and was hired by Harper’s Weekly. He covered the Civil War for Harper’s, making several trips to the battle front. At war’s end, he concentrated on painting. He studied for a short time in Europe, and on his return settled in New York. He painted idyllic scenes of American life. After another trip abroad in 1881, he settled in Maine, where he spent the rest of his life painting subjects from outdoor life. In the isolated community of Prout’s Neck, Maine, he arrived at the subject which would concern him for the rest of his life – man’s struggle with his environment.

    The Fog Warning was based on Homer’s own experiences. He is believed to have made a trip with a fishing fleet to the Grand Banks of Nova Scotia sometime in 1884, where he recorded his observations in a series of sketches, some of which were later used for his oils. Homer originally called this Halibut Fishing, but before exhibiting it in 1885 he changed the title to draw attention to the impending danger represented by the oncoming fog.
    The sturdy dory is the material counterpart of the fog bank. The fisherman, rowing steadily parallels the horizon with his extended oars; the dory reveals the catch and emphasizes the critical distance between the fisherman and the safety of the ship on the horizon. Yet the sea is relatively placid. The occasional white cap is nothing more than fresh breezes. Here, nature is not violent, but subtle like loneliness and fatigue – it is the fisherman’s constant adversary.

  3. Weather Beaten, 1894, Homer, Winslow (1836-1910), Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA, reproduction print.
    Up until about 1890, Homer had always included figures in his paintings, and only at this time did he begin the series of pure and elemental paintings of the sea alone which became his best known work. A big wave is gathering itself to break on the rocks. Cold white sunlight is reflected on its crest and on the sea, but a gray fog bank is creeping in, obscuring sky and horizon, giving the sea itself a cold, ominous color. Homer paints the wave with bulk and power, representing all of nature’s force. For Homer, the sea was changeable, death-dealing, life giving, and above all, eternal. In painting the sea again and again, he sought the true relationship of man and nature.
  4. Gulf Stream, 1899, Winslow Homer,  (1836-1910), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, N.Y., reproduction print.
    The entire color scheme is intensified by the slash of red across the hull of the boat. When Gulf Stream was first exhibited, some people found its subject brutal. Homer, who generally kept himself aloof from his critics, became embroiled in the controversy of the work. "The criticisms…by old women and others are noted," he wrote sarcastically. "You may inform these people that the Negro did not starve to death. He was not eaten by the sharks. The waterspout did not hit him, and he was rescued by a passing ship."
  5. Lighthouse at Two Lights, 1929, Edward Hopper, (1882-1967), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, N.Y., reproduction print.
    Edward Hopper was born in Nyack, New York in 1882. His family was comfortable, but not rich. His father owned a dry-goods store in the pretty river town not far from New York City. His parents did not oppose Hopper’s intention to become an artist, but their prudence required that he turn his talent in a useful direction. At age 17, high school graduate, Eddie Hopper, began a daily commute to the Correspondence School of Illustrating on W. 34th Street. Despite a trip to Europe, he continued to work at his own brand of Realism. He was sensitive to human emotions and was acutely aware of the loneliness of life in the big cities. He painted America from the inside out, concentrating on its feelings rather than the visibly evident. He closely observed the sadness of cheap hotel rooms, empty diners, cool nights, lonely people, and cheerless houses. Hopper traveled from place to place and made mental notes of what he saw, later to put them together to express his feelings on American life.

    Hopper spent many summers on Cape Cod and in Maine along the coast. In 1930, he bought a place in Truro, Cape Cod and spent six months of every year there.


  6. Clipper Ship Dreadnought off Tuskar Light, , Nathaniel Currier,  (1813-1887), lithograph, reproduction print.
    Nathaniel Currier, born in 1813 in Roxbury, MA, was apprenticed at an early age to William and John Pendleton, the Boston printers who were the first men in this country to make use of the new process of lithography. In 1834, Currier left their employ to start a business for himself in New York.

    This print commemorated the passage of the clipper ship, Dreadnought, made in 13 days 11 hours to Liverpool, England. It was dedicated to the Commander of the ship. The artist is unknown.


  7. The Whale Fishery, c. 1850, Currier and Ives, lithograph, reproduction print.
    James Merrit Ives joined Currier’s firm in 1852 as a bookkeeper and became a partner and general manager five years later. Until its demise in 1907, the firm produced approximately 10 million prints involving some 7,000 or more different titles. The small folios retailed for 20 cents, the larger ones from $1.50 to $3.00.

    This print, one of eleven whaling subjects Currier and Ives issued, is based on an 1840 aquatint by Frederic Martens after the painting by Louis Garneray, a French marine artist who spent some time in America.

    The capture of whales for food dates from at least the 14th century. In many countries, whaling on a large scale did not begin until the 17th century, when the use of whale oil for lighting became so important. In America, southern New England became the whaling center, particularly Nantucket and later New Bedford. In 1846, the American whaling fleet numbered 736 vessels; eleven years later New Bedford alone had 329 whale ships.

    The romance of whaling was deeply ingrained in the American spirit. The idea of six men rowing out in a small whaleboat to harpoon and kill the larges mammal existing had to capture the imagination. However, the life of whaling men was not an easy one. Usually they would be away for months at a time, often for as long as eight years. Disease and accidents took their toll. Daily life on board was very harsh, and the stench of the blubber being rendered into oil after each catch was a fact one never became accustomed to. With the discovery of petroleum in Pennsylvania in 1859 and methods of refining it for lighting fuel, the need for whale oil became less vital, and the industry diminished markedly during the following years.

  8. Scrimshaw Pin
    Scrimshaw is a distinctly American art form originating on the whaling ships of the 19th century. The sailors often had weeks where they would be waiting for another whale to chase after. During these downtimes, carving the ivory whalebones was a way to relieve boredom. Some carvings were very ornate and some were very simple. The pictures would be scraped into the ivory with a knife, then ink was poured over the entire area. When the excess ink was wiped off the surface, the carved lines would hold onto the ink, showing the picture. Sometimes the ivory was carved into tableware such as spoons or forks. Ivory hair combs were also very popular.
    Today, it is illegal to sell ivory products across state lines, because sources of ivory are endangered animals – whales, elephants, and rhinoceroses. The scrimshaw and other ivory items on the market today usually come from the large stockpiles of ivory taken during the years whaling was legal in the United States.


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