Styles of Painting
Notice how stiff all aspects of the
painting are in comparison to the later two examples; and
especially to the third example which shows James' hand. To put it
bluntly, Thomas could not draw. Look at the draftsmanship, and
especially the modelling of the vessels and sails.
Notice the liquidity of the water, the
atmospheric effects that give the painting a sense of depth.
James floated his pigments in plenty of medium, and his best
pictures have a liquid flowing quality about them. both father and
son used a stylized sky, but in the third picture James is clearly
on his way to developing his American style of sky and atmosphere.
in short, there is a pronounced
progression from the crude to the sublime in these three pictures
- from early Thomas Buttersworth, through mature Thomas in
collaboration with his son James whom he was training, to a James
Buttersworth rapidly maturing artistically on the verge of of
emigrating to New York where he will become the most sought after
marine artist of the second half of the 19th century.
All 3 paintings share the same
basic composition. All 3 are "formula" paintings. This is
not a knock, as all marine paintings no matter how good or badly
executed the artist rely on a set of basic compositional
techniques which produce a totally artificial construct that
actually appears to be realistic.
The painting by Thomas with frigate
obscuring light house on island in background is the crudest when
it comes to composition and execution. The frigate is dominant
element and focal point. however, cutter with white ensign is in
right middle ground beating to windward.
In the second picture the cutter
beating to windward is the focal point, she obscures the
lighthouse on the island in the distance. this picture is
basically a refinement and modification of frigate painting. as a
composition it is far superior to the version dominated by frigate
that upon close examination couldn't possibly be sailing downhill
out of the painting.
The third version, exposes the light
house as a focal point to give a greater sense of depth, and the
cutter rather than beating to windward is running before the wind
flying a blue ensign rather than a white one. in short, version
three is the most "