Maritime Art at Christie’s New York

Christie’s New York has announced details of its December 3 auction of Maritime paintings. The sale boasts over 138 paintings and features exceptional works from 19th century American artists James Edward Buttersworth and Edward Moran, as well as a superb group of fourteen oils and watercolors by 20th century British artist Montague Dawson. Many of the paintings to be offered have never before appeared on the market.

The December 3 auction is the first since Christie’s created a paintings-only category for Maritime Art and incorporated it into the same week as its Sporting Art and American Paintings sales in New York. A Maritime Objects Sale, including nautical antiques, scrimshaw, and ship models is slated for January 15, 2009.

Images of yachts, battleships, clipper ships, whalers, and modern-day frigates are all featured in the upcoming auction. For devotees of historical maritime battles, a sale highlight is a grouping of master works by Montague Dawson, including American brig Argus engaging His Majesty’s sloop Pelican in British Waters, 14th August 1813. Dawson skillfully captures the moment when the British and American ships drew aside one other in a full-on firefight, and mercilessly shredded each other’s sails with gunfire (estimate: $200,000-300,000). The Dawson grouping also includes seven watercolor paintings making a rare appearance at auction. Passing the mark boat, six meter yachts racing at Cowes Regatta (estimate: $25,000 – 35,000) is his commemoration of the 1923 British-American Cup, a hotly contested four-on-four team race in which the British team handily defeated the United States.

Other highlights from the yachting category include a grouping of six works by 19th century American artist Edward Moran. A sailor and racing enthusiast in his own right, Moran took pride in re-creating America’s yachting successes. His 1876 oil The Madeleine’s Victory over the Countess of Dufferin (estimate: $150,000 – 250,000) portrays the winning ship in full sail and backlit by the golden light of a late-day sky. Racing diagonally across the foreground of the painting, the Madeleine leaves her competitors behind in the gathering mist. Similarly, James Edward Butterworth’s oil, Columbia Leading Dauntless around the Sandy Hook lightship in the Hurricane Cup Race, depicts two of the most celebrated American yachts of the late 1800’s racing era in a match sponsored by the New York Yacht Club (estimate: $150,000 – 250,000).

Contemporary works are also represented in the auction. British artist John Steven Dews’s largeformat oil, Endeavour crosses ahead; Valsheda and Endeavour racing, depicts the 1999 Antigua Classics Regatta, a J-Class yachting event. The painting captures a dramatic moment in the race when the two celebrated yachts Endeavour and Valsheda are nearly heeled over onto their sides. At the center of the painting, their crossed masts form an “X” against the bright Caribbean sky (estimate $120,000 – 180,000).

Collectors of historical maritime paintings will be delighted by two works from the British/ American artist Robert Salmon that offer unique, 19th century views of Liverpool. His 1801 work, A View of Liverpool seen from the Wallasey foreshore, provides a historically accurate view of the Liverpool townscape and waterfront in the background (estimate: $150,000 – 250,000). Similarly, Butterworth’s A View of Nassau in the Bahamas (estimate: $40,000 – 60,000) offers a rare 19th century view of the Caribbean port. A large merchantman being towed into Boston amidst yachts racing offshore, a panorama of the city beyond, also by Buttersworth, is framed by the a 19th century view of Boston’s Beacon Hill area, with the familiar State House dome serving as the focal point.