Oil on canvas titled "Yacht Racing off Sandy Hook" is signed in light blue lower left. The large format painting has fantastic detail and the composition depicts three yachts completing a race around the Sandy Hook Light Ship, a subject he painted many variations of. The schooner at the center is heeling towards the viewer displaying the individual planks on the deck as well as all of the deck structures including the grating at the bow. The figures on all three boats are well defined and are actively working at sailing the vessels. In the schooner you can see the afterguard with the crew in the cockpit and the captain standing near the starboard rail pointing and shouting orders to the crew. The sails on all of the boats are accurately rendered with highly detailed sail seams and reef points.
The sloops appearing on the right and left show topsails fluttering and the winning boat on the right has its foresail fluttering, a technique Buttersworth often employed to show action. The schooner at the center has all of her sails set and beautifully shaped. One can feel the force of the wind pulling her forward. The red-hulled Sandy Hook Light Ship flying her American flag off the stern is somewhat obscured by the schooner at the center but her forward mast with a light is visible along with portions of the forward mast itself. The two sidewheel steam ship spectator boats are each flying American flags off the stern and the Union Jack off the bow. The sky is masterfully rendered in hues of plum, gray and blue which provides a splendid backdrop for the sails. This regatta described below in detail was know for a strong black squall that quickly rose toward the end of the race. This squall was described in many accounts in the press of the day and mentioned that the yachts Wanderer and the Rambler were almost sunk. The well know marine artist Fredric Cozzens painted a well know watercolor depicting these yachts floundering in the squall. Buttersworth would occasionally paint the reflections of the sails and masts in the water which in this painting can be seen in the water below the center schooner. The painting contains a greater number of the special elements and nuances that characterize and dramatize Buttersworth's finest paintings. The atmospheric and narrative qualities of this painting along with a combination of composition, detail, size, condition and framing characterize this canvas as a true Buttersworth masterpiece.
Note 2: The White private signal with the red diagonal stripe flying from the schooner at the center is the private signal of John S. Beecher who was elected to the membership of the NYYC in May 1870, and dropped out of the Club in December of 1879. It was customary at that time, as it is today, for a club member to charter a special boat for a major club race and race the chartered boat rather than one's own boat. Beecher owned the sloop Petrel. The Blue Private signal with the white cross belonged to Frank W. Hurst who is mentioned above as being the owner of the sloop Active which is the winning boat appearing on the far right of the painting. The photos of the private signals were copied from the 1875 NYYC yearbook because the 1877 yearbook, for some reason, did not print the members' flags that year. The white flag flying on the sloop to the far left is unidentified.
Condition of Painting: The painting is in outstanding condition and is unlined. The colors are rich and all the original glazes are in-tact. The painting was cleaned a number of years ago and has only a very small amount of scattered in-paint. It is the finest condition of any James Butteswoth painting we have examined.
Note 3: Only a small percentage of James E. Buttersworth paintings exceed a width of 18 inches. These larger format yachting scenes rarely appear on the market or in the literature.
Condition of Frame: The painting retains its original frame which is made from 4 elements plus the liner. Both the frame and the liner have fancy hand painted black decoration which adds a wonderful embellishment to the already fancy frame.
Provenance: Quester Gallery, Stonington, CT
Nelson Doubleday Jr. Collection: Nelson Doubleday owned the family company Doubleday Publishing. He also owned the New York Mets Baseball Team and the Islanders Hockey Team. He was an avid yachtsman and collector of maritime art and artifacts.
Condition of Painting: The painting is in outsatanding condition. It is not lined and only very minor scattered in-paint in the sky. The painting is amazingly vivid and retains all of the original glazes.
Condition of Frame: Eli Wilner of Eli Wilner Frame Restoration has commented that the frame is of the style of the late 1870s and early 1880s and is original to the painting. The frame retains its original silver leaf with gold shellac finish. The black design work on the frame molding and liner is an "Eastlake" design, typical of the late 1870s and was stenciled to the frame surfaces.
Dimensions of Painting: Height 20 1/8, Width 36 inches
Dimensions of Frame: Length 47 3/8, Height 31 1/4 inches. The width of the frame is 6 inches and the liner has a 1 5/8 inch reveal.