Buttersworth, James E.
Exceptionally rare and important canvas, depicting the American clipper ship, 'Black Warrior', signed lower right: 'J E Buttersworth', American, circa 1853. This painting is executed in Buttersworth's typical fashion. The hull is beautifully detailed showing each plank. The lighting on the hull is also exceptional in the manner it captures light reflection. The figurehead is very detailed and depicts a woman with outstretched arms. A quarterboard with the name 'Black Warrior' is crisply painted along the bow and in front of the anchor and a second quarterboard is mounted below the lifeboat. The stern decoration is also visible. There are several figures onboard. The deckhouses and lifeboats are very detailed. The sails have outstanding detail and shape. The sail seams and reef points are accurately delineated and are remarkably well preserved. The spars are also beautifully drafted and the stunsails are visible from the lower three yardarms on the front two masts. Flying from the peak of the main mast is a white flag with a red, white and blue American shield. The American flag is flying off the gaff. To the left of the 'Black Warrior' is another clipper ship flying an American flag. This vessel is under shorten sail and is flying a house flag from the peak of the main mast with a white ground and a red cross with a blue dot at the center of the cross. The water is typical of Buttersworth paintings of this period. The rolling waves are painted very accurately with white detailing at the crest of the waves and white detailing along the hull. The sky is also typical with puffy clouds with the pink and purple highlights. The color saturation and brightness of color is exceptional in this painting. Many of the Currier & Ives clipper ship prints painted by James Buttersworth are extremely similar to this painting. (PA-603)
Condition of painting: Please see written condition report.
Reference I: Schaefer, Rudolph J., 'J.E. Buttersworth 19th-Century Marine Painter', Mystic, Connecticut: Mystic Seaport, 1975. There are three Buttersworth paintings illustrated in this book that show two clippers in the same image. These illustrations appear on pages 111, 112, and 113. Other Buttersworth clipper ship paintings appear on pages 86, 116 and 117.
Reference II: Grassby, Richard B., 'Ship, Sea & Sky', New York: Rizzoli, South Street Seaport Museum, 1994. The frontispiece to this book depicts the clipper ship 'WITCHCRAFT'. The coloration and the rendering of the two vessels is extremely similar. On page 66, the Buttersworth painting of the 'DREADNOUGHT', which is in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum and one of the most published and well known of the Buttersworth clipper ship paintings can not compare to this painting in terms of color, crispness, quality of light and condition.
Reference III: Howe, Octavius T. and Frederick C. Matthews, 'American Clipper Ships Vol. 1, Salem, Massachusetts: Marine Research Society, 1926. The 'Black Warrior' was a medium clipper ship launched late in 1853 from the yard Austin & Co., Damariscotta, Maine and immediately purchased by William Wilson and Son of Baltimore for $ 90,000. The 'Black Warrior' was 234 feet in length, 42.5 feet in breadth, 23 feet in draft and the weight was 1828 tons. Captain Murphy was the captain until the vessel was sold. The first voyage of 'Black Warrior' was from New York to London than on to Australia. The vessel continued on to South America and arrived back in New York June 23, 1855. 'Black Warrior' sailed for San Francisco September 6, 1855 making the passage in 124 days and than went on to Hong Kong. In 1862, the 'Black Warrior' was sold to James Baines & Co. and went under the British flag as the "City of Melbourne".
Provenance: The painting has been passed down through a Connecticut family for several generations. Accompanying the painting is a number of letters between members of the family as well as Mystic Seaport Museum and the Peabody Museum. There is also two letters from Rudy Schaefer regarding the painting. Mr. Schaefer was the author of the Buttersworth book listed above. These letters date back as far as January 1956.
Refrence IV: Alan Granby and Janice Hyland "Flying the Colors:The Unssen Treasures of Nineteenth-Century American Marine Art". The Painting of the "Black Warrior" is illustrated full page in color on page 184 Plate #III.7.
Dimensions of painting: 29 x 35 3/4.
Dimensions of frame: 40 x 47.