James E. Buttersworth
(1815 - 1894)
Oil on board, depicting schooner yachts passing the Needles, American, circa 1870. The painting is typical of Buttersworth's style with a wonderful sense of action and is very atmospheric with a beautifully rendered sea and sky. The main yacht with a black hull is probably Dauntless although the burgee is not rendered accurately. The sails are beautifully painted and all the original sail seams and reef points are clearly visible. Buttersworth's typical sailors in blue uniforms are scattered throughout the deck. The reflections of the sails are clearly visible in the foreground, a technique Buttersworth developed in his American period. The sky is very typical of Buttersworth's style with the dark shades of grey accented against the white clouds which are mixed with shades of pink and purple. The Needles with the three pointed rock formations and the lighthouse are clearly visible. The back of the board retains the original paper label of 'Winsor & Newton' and artist board commonly used by J. E. Buttersworth. (PA-782)
Condition of painting: For full condition report refer to document folder with a report by Tom Yost, conservator.
Condition of frame: The painting has a nineteenth century style compo frame with fluted cove. The entire surface of the frame has 23 karat gold leaf.
Reference: Schaefer, Rudolph J., 'J.E. Buttersworth 19th-Century Marine Painter', Mystic, Connecticut: Mystic Seaport, 1975. Other examples of yachts racing off the Needles by J.E. Buttersworth can be found on pages 145, 155, and 170. The illustration on page 170 is an extremely similar painting to the one descibed above. This painting is titled: 'Dauntless Racing in the Channel' and hangs in the bar of the New York Yacht Club. This painting has more ominous weather which shows the boat with one less foresail, no topsails or fisherman. This painting has the same burgee and similar figures. The dinghy has been removed in each painting for the race and the reflection of the sails in the water is quite similar. 'In 1867 Dauntless sailed across the Atlantic to do some racing in British waters. She remained there for three years coming back to America in 1870 in time to compete in the first race for the America's Cup.'
Note 1: Accompanying the painting is a letter dated: April 24, 1997, by Philip Budlong, Associate Curator of Collections at Mystic Seaport. The letter states: 'I feel that your painting is definitely the work of the Anglo-American artist James Edward Buttersworth (1817-1894).' It also references a painting depicting Dauntless and Sappho which is illustrated on page 91 of Grassby, 'Ship, Sea & Sky'.
Note 2: In looking at Ocean Racing: the great blue water yacht races 1866-1935 it appears that DAUNTLESS sailed to England in 1869, not 1867 as Schaefer's book states.
A few excerpts describe the lead up to the 1870 transatlantic between Dauntless and Cambria...
'...However, Cambria was blessed with a beautiful hull, and in racing in England had demonstrated that she ranked with the very best. Her owner, James Ashbury, commodore of the Royal Harwich Yacht Club, believed that she was superior to anything of American construction, and with that thought in mind challenged for the America's Cup, suggesting terms which are unimportant to this recountal but which established him as a rather difficult man with whom to deal. This was unfortunate, as in negotiating with him the New York Yacht Club established a pattern of international behaviorism which it has never fully succeeded in discarding.'
'James Gordon Bennett, Jr., at this time vice-commodore of the New York Yacht Club, thought that he could show English yachtsmen a few things untaught by the America, nineteen years before, and took the schooner Dauntless to England for the purpose.'
'Easy though it is now to belittle a yacht of a previous generation, Dauntless was among the best in 1870, and Bennett had as good reason as Ashbury to believe that in a transatlantic race his schooner would fly the winning colours. Having been sailed to England in 1869, Dauntless wintered at Cowes, was refitted in the spring, and after one unremarkable race from Cherbourg around the Nab Lightship and back, in which she carried away her topmast and finished third in a fleet of five, she was refitted for the transoceanic race. After some correspondence which was not without acrimony, the start was set for July 4 off Daunt Rock, situated eight miles from Queenstown (Cobb), Ireland, and the prize was established as a set of silverware valued at two hundred and fifty pounds.'
So, the dating of the painting to be c. 1870 seems about right as she was over there in the winter of 1869 and is recorded as racing at that time.
Dimensions of painting: 10 x 14 3/8.
Dimensions of frame: 19 1/4 x 23 1/4.