James Edward Buttersworth

American, 1817 - 1894
James Buttersworth was born outside of London to a family with a long history of British marine painting, including his grandfather, Thomas Buttersworth (1768-1828?), and his father, Thomas Buttersworth (1797?-1842). Well-grounded and trained in the traditions of his predecessors, James Buttersworth is best known for his depictions of the great frigates, clipper ships and racing sailboats of his day, rendered in full sail, under dramatic skies. Buttersworth immigrated to the United States sometime between 1845 and 1847, settling in West Hoboken, New Jersey, with his wife and five children. The proximity to New York, then the epicenter for marine commercial transportation, allowed the artist a constant supply of subject matter, and he spent the next four decades recording the transformation of the shipping world, as steam replaced sail, and as recreational yacht racing took hold. He had an innate talent for capturing the movement of a vessel and his style was distinctive; his ships, accurately rendered with exquisite detail, navigate over a generally muted palette of green-blue waters, complemented against warmer tones of gray and yellow in the sky and clouds. Buttersworth exhibited only rarely, submitting paintings to the American Art Union in 1850s, and supported his large family by taking on private commissions which he painted in all sizes. For those who could not afford the originals, his work was made more accessible to a wider audience through the lithography of Nathaniel Currier and later, Currier & Ives. Whether clippers cresting windblown seas, steamships arriving with their cargo in New York harbor, or yachts smoothly plying the waters, racing for glory, Buttersworth painted his subjects as they would have performed in their natural environment and today examples can be found in several museum collections including the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine, the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, and the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio. Off Barbados shows us a British war ship with cannons at the ready, complete with the British Royal Ensign. It most likely depicts an event in the naval history of the Napoleonic War, possibly the dramatic chase scene of 1805, which led up to the Battle of Trafalgar, when Lord Nelson pursued Admiral Villeneuve to the West Indies. This painting is an excellent example of Buttersworth’s English period, from 1840-1845, when his choice of subject matter and painting style closely resembled that of his father Thomas Buttersworth.
James Buttersworth Paintings
Born in 1817 in Middlesex County, Great Britain, James Edward Buttersworth was the son of important English sea painter Thomas Buttersworth. Settling in New York in 1845, he soon established himself as one of America's leading marine artists. For the most part he signed his works J.E. Buttersworth.

During the next period of his life, many of his works were chosen by Currier & Ives as subjects for lithographs. His images were also used in magazines and newspapers that reported the yachting events of the day. New York Harbor and the surrounding areas became a favorite background for his vessels which he portrayed faithfully with an eye for precise detail. His reputation sprang from his accurate representations of the great sailing yachts of his time.

In order to accent the speed and grace of these vessels, he would often elongate the hulls and sails to create a feeling of motion portrayed along a low horizon line. With dramatic skies, churning seas and accurate detail, he ennobled and romanticized sailing ships with what have become historically important paintings that are both beautiful and refined.
(1817-1894) James Buttersworth was born in Middlesex County, England, and is presumed to have been the son of painter Thomas Buttersworth (1768-1842), though little is known of him before he emigrated to America. He settled in West Hoboke, New Jersey about 1850 and enjoyed a floursihing career as a marine painter. New York Harbor provided the background for many of his works. He worked with Nathaniel Currier in 1847 and when the firm became Currier and Ives, many of Buttersworth's paintings were made into prints by them. From 1850 to 1852 he sold his work through the American Art Union in New York, from which he garnered a commission to make drawings for British yacht races in 1851. His career spanned sixty years and about 600 of his paintings have been recorded. He painted America's Cup races as well as warships and historic naval actions, and all types of vessels from racing clipper ships and yachts to steamers. He was particularly adept at capturing the grace and majesty of sailing vessels, frequently portraying them from the diagonal and thus underscoring the sense of rapid movement. Using primarily oil paint, he applied it thinly to the ground, which was usually canvas but also occasionally millboard, wood panel, or metal. He had an eye for meticulous detail and portrayed ships with great accuracy, but also achieved a Romantic sense of drama with the use of low horizon lines, stormy skies, and tempestuous water.

Biography courtesy of Roger King Gallery of Fine Art, www.antiquesandfineart.com/rking
James E. Buttersworth, born in 1817, was a leading 19th century ship painter. His father had been an English painter and in generations to come, Buttersworth's son would also become a painter. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1845 and worked for Currier & Ives, who published his ship pictures as popular prints. By the 1850s, Buttersworth developed a strong reputation for his depictions of clipper ships and yachts, seen in the New York Harbor. His specialty was in naval ships, which he sometimes depicted in battle. Buttersworth's work is noted for it's precise detail and romanticized settings with churning sea and rolling storm clouds. He would also accentuate the length of a yacht by painting full sails in a diagonal composition. James Buttersworth died in 1894.

Biography courtesy of The Caldwell Gallery, www.antiquesandfineart.com/caldwell
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