Released April 11, 2006
SALEM, Mass.—Sketched at Sea features never before seen works from the Peabody Essex Museum’s maritime art collection—a selection of more than 60 marine sketchbooks, drawings, paintings, and other works from the mid-18th to early-20th centuries. While the men and women who created these works came from a variety of backgrounds—travelers, mariners, and professional artists—they all shared in the experience of using the sea as a source of inspiration. Sketched at Sea opens at the Peabody Essex Museum on Aug. 12, 2006, and runs through Jan. 6, 2008.
The sketchbooks by travelers are filled with drawings that are visual souvenirs of a journey. While the artists were amateurs, their sketches are the most intimate and revealing. Marina Sargent’s pencil sketches of time spent in Indonesia in 1879 reveal a woman with an intense interest in the world around her and a wry sense of humor. Robert Ellice’s ink sketches of Xiamen (Amoy), China, from 1849 convey his admiration for the beauty of the port city and its surroundings.
The sketches by mariners focus closely on two subjects of vital importance to seafarers—the ship and the shore. Many of these drawings were created to vividly record places for future voyages, and are impressive in their detail, as well as being artistically expressive. When sketching the North African coastline, American Jacob Crowninshield practiced a form of drawing that was also used in published atlases of the time. Gaston Liebert toured the world and captured key landmarks of the shoreline. Liebert, a French naval cadet, also drew with a keen eye any British warships he encountered—vessels he would have likely faced in combat if war had flared between France and England.
The maritime sketchbooks of professional painters offer a rare glimpse into the creative process of the artists. The unfinished drawings often contain notes indicating how the sketch should be translated to canvas. William Bradford’s renderings of the coast of Labrador capture the dramatic landscape and difficult lifestyle of its inhabitants, and his subsequent paintings established him as an important American landscape painter of the 19th century. Boston marine painter Marshall Johnson traveled extensively along the New England coast sketching its ports and vessels, and later called upon these drawings to create the oil paintings of late-19th century seafaring that made him so popular.
This exhibition is made possible in part with sponsorship support from OSRAM Sylvania.
Concurrently with Sketched at Sea, the Peabody Essex Museum is presenting The Yachting Photography of Willard B. Jackson through May 20, 2007. Shooting primarily from his powerboat Alison between 1898 and 1936, Jackson captured the many dimensions of yachting, from graceful boat designs, to the exhilaration of the sport, to the deep affinity sailors share with their vessels on the sea. Although he specialized in great sailboats, Jackson's remarkable eye and darkroom skills captured the beauty of all types of vessels, including steam yachts, speedboats, elegant pleasure cruisers, and the occasional naval vessel. The Yachting Photography of Willard B. Jackson includes more than 50 works from the Peabody Essex Museum's collection.