Reviewed | Judith Bonner on ‘The Coast and the Sea’

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions, reviews by Editor on August 3, 2014

Linda S. Ferber, The Coast and the Sea: Marine and Maritime Art in America (New York and London: New-York Historical Society in association with D. Giles Limited, 2014), 104 pages, ISBN 978-1907804311, $30 / £20.

Reviewed for Enlade by Judith H. Bonner

Coast-and-Sea-jkt-02-13w-front2The New-York Historical Society, that city’s oldest museum, is celebrating its recent reopening after its lengthy renovation with a traveling exhibition and accompanying catalogue by Linda S. Ferber.1 The exhibition features more than 60 artworks and artifacts, primarily paintings, including portraits, genre scenes, and marine and maritime scenes. Overall, the images document the development of the New York area with its harbor and its close relationship with the Atlantic Ocean, the great maritime highway for trade and immigration.

Works selected for the exhibition have their origins in the eighteenth century, beginning in 1728 and ending in 1904. Maritime-related artifacts include a vintage spyglass, scrimshaw, snuff boxes, and an 1816 silver presentation soup tureen commemorating acts of bravery during the War of 1812. The provenance of each artwork documents the development of the New-York Historical Society, as well as the city’s art collectors, their tastes, and their interests.

The exhibition features work by artists whose names are familiar, as well as those who are unfamiliar. The painters include Thomas Birch, Thomas Buttersworth, Carlton Theodore Chapman, Thomas Cole, Jasper Francis Cropsey, Julian Oliver Davidson, Mauritz Frederick Hendrick De Haas, James Guy Evans, Robert Havell Jr., John Frederick Kensett, Rembrandt Peale, Francis Augustus Silva, and John Vanderlyn.

Several artists had nautical experience that informed their art in subject, rigging, and construction of the vessels. Buttersworth served in the British navy, while De Haas held an artist’s commission in the Dutch navy. James Guy Evans possibly served in the American navy. Chapman ran away to sea as a teenager; and Davidson sailed the globe, making sketches that provided visual sources for many years. Evident in these artists’ works is their understanding of the action of waves and atmospheric effects over the seas at different times of the day or season.

The marine subjects include frigates engaged in famous sea battles, working vessels and bustling port scenes, marine recreation scenes, portraits of heroic sea captains, and pioneering merchants. Marine scenes focus on recreation, shipwrecks, disasters, and military encounters, particularly those in the War of 1812 and Civil War. The exhibition spreads its reach down the East Coast, swinging farther south to the Battle of Mobile Bay in the Gulf of Mexico and the Battle of Port Hudson up the Mississippi River about 100 miles above New Orleans.

Portraitists range from eighteenth-century painter John Wollaston to early nineteenth-century painters John Vanderlyn and Rembrandt Peale, the latter of whom executed a portrait of naval hero Commodore Stephen Decatur in dress uniform and set against a dramatic stormy sky. Wollaston’s circa-1750 portrait of wealthy colonial merchant-shipbuilder Captain John Waddell, who owned a fleet of ships, sets the stage for the succession of ships’ portraits seen throughout the catalogue. Early portraits include personages having distinguished careers or an association with maritime enterprises. The sitter is often shown near an open window through which one views a conventionalized seascape or harbor scene with masted vessels. Other sitters are shown with maps, globes, compass, a spyglass, or other maritime instruments.

The catalogue is well researched and documented with a select bibliography. Explanations of the marine scenes are succinct yet vivid; the prose is fluid and often poetic. Ferber distinguishes between marine scenes—which focus on the pure seascape, its coast and environs—and maritime paintings. The latter, Ferber explains, emphasize human activity and other enterprises on shore or at sea. Her knowledge of nautical terminology and national history is evident throughout. She traces visual conventions from their development in seventeenth-century Holland, their passage into the British school of marine painting, and subsequent introduction into English colonies in the New World.

Ferber consistently places artworks within a broader historical context and, when appropriate, within a cultural narrative. Brief biographical sketches of artists trace their artistic development within the maritime tradition. Ferber discusses allegorical themes in paintings, as well as the effect that nostalgic longing for historically simpler times had upon the proliferation and re-creation of popular scenes celebrating heroic national victories and spirited naval encounters.

The book invites readers to the repeated examination of the images, some of which, like those illustrating the America’s Cup, are iconic. Truly memorable is a painting by Howard Pyle, A Privateersman Ashore (1893), shown in historically correct clothing and accouterments. The privateer stands near the Battery and Castle Clinton at the time of the War of 1812, posed and preening, with smoke from his cigar curling upward from the corner of his mouth as townspeople in the distance look toward him with disdain. The latter is a comment about the disapprobation citizens held for such freebooters, who preyed upon British ships.

Closing this maritime jaunt through history are two paintings. The first, by Andrew Meyer, shows President Grover Cleveland reviewing a naval parade in New York Harbor as the setting for opening ceremonies of Chicago’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, with the Statue of Liberty clearly visible, as though she also stands in review of the parade. Lastly, in 1904 Chapman portrays the Great East River Bridge (now Brooklyn Bridge) over the East River, celebrating New York’s location on the rim of the Atlantic, the gateway to America.


1. Venues for exhibition include: The Society of the Four Arts, Palm Beach, Florida (25 January — 9 March 2014); The Baker Museum of Art, Naples, Florida (19 April — 6 July 2014); Portland Museum of Art, Portland, Maine (January — May 2015); The Mattatuck Museum, Waterbury, Connecticut (6 June — 13 September 2015); and The New York State Museum, Albany, New York (24 October 2015 — 22 February 2016).

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Judith H. Bonner is Senior Curator and Curator of Art at The Historic New Orleans Collection.

Call for Panels, Papers, and Posters | ISECS 2015, Rotterdam

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on August 3, 2014

From the Call for Papers:

14th International Congress for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ISECS 2015)
Rotterdam, 26–31 July 2015

Proposals due by 1 September 2014 (Panel Sessions) / 12 January 2015 (Individual Papers and Posters)

The Congress of the International Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ISECS) is the world’s largest meeting of specialists on all aspects of the eighteenth century, and takes place every four years. Recent ISECS conferences have been held in Dublin (1999), Los Angeles (2003), Montpellier (2007) and Graz (2011). The 14th ISECS Congress will be organized in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, from 26 to 31 July 2015. It is organized by the Dutch-Belgian Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies (DBSECS – Werkgroep 18e Eeuw) and is hosted by the Erasmus University Rotterdam on Campus Woudestein. We can welcome more than one thousand participants.

The theme of the 14th ISECS Congress is Opening Markets: Trade and Commerce in the 18th Century. The program will include theme-related keynote lectures and sessions, as well as panels and round tables on all topics related to the long eighteenth century (1670–1830). The conference will also facilitate poster presentations. We are looking forward to inspiring lectures, debates and presentations on the conference theme and on all issues regarding the Age of Enlightenment and Sensibility.

Online registration is now open for:
• Submission of proposals for panel sessions and round table sessions. The online Call for Panels is open from February 2014 until September 1, 2014.
• Submission of proposals for individual papers or poster presentations. The online Call for individual Papers & Posters is open from June 2014 until January 12, 2015.
• Pre-registration: You can e-mail the organizers (info@isecs2015.com) a request for pre-registration. By pre-registering, you subscribe to a newsletter that will keep you regularly informed about the organization of the ISECS 2015 Congress, including planned sessions, round tables and other meetings. The online Registration for the ISECS 2015 Congress will open from September 1, 2014 until April 30, 2015.

Don’t hesitate to distribute this call among interested colleagues and networks! If you have any questions in the meantime, please contact the local host committee via info@isecs2015.com or visit the conference website. ISECS 2015 is open to all persons interested in topics and issues having to do with the long eighteenth century and the Age of Enlightenment. Membership of an ISECS constituent or affiliated organization is not necessary for registration. The online Registration for the Early Career Eighteenth-Century Scholar Seminar will open in September 2014.

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Instructions for Panel Session Submissions
Proposals due by 1 September 2014

The ISECS 2015 Committee invites those interested to organize thematic meetings in the program of the Conference to submit proposals for panel sessions and round tables. The submission of proposals for panels will be open until September 1, 2014. Panel organizers are requested to complete the online form. Organizers are asked to supply information about the theme of the proposed panel and the panel members along with an abstract of their contribution to the panel meeting. Panels have a duration of one and a half hours, and should consist of 3–4 speakers (depending on the amount of discussion time the panel organizer wants to provide). It is also possible to submit a panel suggestion without concrete panelists or partly filled with panelists. In the coming months, we will present a list with panels accepting proposals on our website. Open panels will also be promoted through our newsletter.

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Instructions for Individual Paper Proposals
Proposals due by 12 January 2015

The submission of proposals for papers is open until January 12, 2015. Participants in the ISECS 2015 Congress can submit one proposal for an individual paper. In the menu available through the website, you will find a dropdown box with submitted panels that are open for paper submissions. Here, you can indicate which panel your paper could be part of. Paper proposals are reviewed by the scientific committee and by the panel organizers. The ISECS 2015 Scientific Committee is responsible for organizing the panels in which the papers and posters will be presented. Only registered participants can present individual papers and posters. Participants who intend to submit more than one paper proposal are requested to contact the organizers of the ISECS 2015 Conference (info@isecs2015.com).

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Instructions for Poster Proposals
Proposals due by 12 January 2015

Are you involved in an interesting project or in an area of work that you would like to discuss with or show to other Conference attendees? Why not present your work in the ISECS Poster Sessions? Your topic could be described on a printed poster or by photographs, graphics and pieces of text that you attach to the presentation panel. Posters in both English and French are welcome. Presenters of posters will be expected to be present on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 28–30 July, in order to explain their posters and to hand out any leaflets, or other information materials they have available for viewers. Each presenter can therefore only present one poster. Any organization that submits more than one application should indicate a priority to their submissions.

It is important that applicants describe how they intend to illustrate the project in the poster format. The poster has to be an experience in itself for the one who looks at it and should show awareness of the poster format. Special consideration will be given to ensure that a variety of topics and geographical/cultural range will be represented. The deadline is January 12, 2015. After the deadline, applications will no longer be accepted.

A jury representing the ISECS Organizing Committee will review all submissions and at the Conference they will select the winner of the ISECS Poster Award 2015 based on the criteria below. The topic of the poster should:
• Look lively, interesting and/or inspiring
• Lend itself to a poster session and not be too abstract
• Present new ideas
• Be clearly explained
• Not duplicate another poster, nor have the same presenter as another poster
• A presenter must be present during the poster session to explain the poster to viewers
• Have a relationship to the theme of the 2015 ISECS Conference
• Describe a project that is ongoing or near completion rather than one not yet started
For useful tips and tricks on how to design a poster, see this guide by Aimee Roundtree.

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