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James Edward Buttersworth
(1817 – 1894)
James Buttersworth was an English painter who specialized in maritime art, and is considered among the foremost American ship portraitists of the nineteenth century. His paintings are particularly known for their meticulous detail, dramatic settings, and grace in movement.
Born in London, England in 1817, to a family of maritime artists. Being that his grandfather was Thomas Buttersworth, 1768-1828, and his father was Thomas Buttersworth, Jr., 1797-1842, it is obvious he inherited a talent and was well schooled in the tradition of English marine painting. A meticulous draftsman, Buttersworth had an eye for exact detail, and painted clipper ships and great sailing yachts as well as historical conflicts with battleships. The paintings are usually made dramatic by stormy skies and churning ocean waves.
Between 1845 and 1847, he emigrated to the United States and settled in West Hoboken, New Jersey and maintained a Brooklyn studio. He brought many of his paintings with him from England, and Currier and Ives Company purchased some of them to convert into lithographs. He benefited from the wide exposure this association gave his work.
He returned to England in 1851 for the Race for the Hundred Pound Cup that took place on August 22, 1851. His sketches and paintings of that yachting competition provide the definitive record of events in that benchmark season of sailing.
Buttersworth’s paintings of the 1893 Vigilant vs. Valkyrie II Cup match, done one year before his death, completed the chronicling of America’s Cup races by oil painting just before the advent of successful photographic imagery. He was inducted into the America’s Cup Hall of Fame in 1999. About 600 of his pieces survive today, which are found in private collections and museums all over the United States.
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