In his memoir, Life on the Mississippi, Mark Twain wrote, “The face of the water, in time became a wonderful book—a book that was a dead language to the uneducated passenger, but which told its mind to me without reserve, delivering its most cherished secrets as clearly as if it uttered them with a voice. And it was not a book to be read once and thrown aside, for it had a new story to tell every day.”
This fascination and reverence for life on the water is rooted in the hearts and minds of all marine artists. When it comes to artistic expression, no other subject matter inspires me more than the grit and beauty of rivers, and the earnest characters who make their living on the water.
As a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, former nuclear submariner and sailor, my love of marine art and its history is unyielding. That’s why I’m honored to be named Managing Director of The American Society of Marine Artists. In this new position, I will work passionately to promote marine art and maritime history while encouraging the free exchange of ideas between artists.
The History of Marine Art
The lure of new place and the yearning for adventure have been romanticized in the narrative of marine art throughout the centuries. However, this genre is also vital in its role of documenting history. Vessels on the water have been depicted in art from the earliest times.
In ancient Egyptian art, the Nile River is depicted as the source of all life. Both men and gods are portrayed in historical artwork on boats crossing the mighty river, and the scenes eloquently portray the time’s culture, mythology and religion.
As landscape art emerged during the Renaissance, marine landscape became an important element in works, but pure seascapes were still rare. It wasn’t until the Dutch Golden Age that marine painting became a significant genre, reflecting the importance of overseas trade and naval power of the Dutch Republic. It was at this time that the first career marine artists emerged.
In modern times, many of America’s most celebrated works of art document life on the water.
Winslow Homer’s famed painting, The Fog Warning, beautifully illustrates an ancient struggle, where the sea is both provider and adversary.
Edward Hopper’s work, The Long Leg, demonstrates the graceful movements of a boat across the water, and the peaceful solitude of a Northeastern seascape. American painters like Frederick Waugh and N.C. Wyeth masterfully capture the stormy drama of sea life in their often historical works.
Fair Winds and Following Seas
In the year ahead, I look forward to sharing my passion for marine art. This includes planning a new museum exhibition featuring my works celebrating life and work on our inland waterways.
I invite you to join me in this journey as we traverse together the waterways of the world as represented in the alluring work of maritime art.