Painting, Seascape with American Ships

Description
Anglo-American marine painter George Robert Bonfield (1802-1898) was born in England; his family migrated to Philadelphia in the early 19th century, and Bonfield was apprenticed to a stonecutter (his father's trade). In his youth, he occasionally sketched at the New Jersey estate of Joseph Bonaparte, Napolean's exiled brother and former king of Naples and Spain. It was there that he had access to fine European marine paintings, which fostered his interest in the genre and influenced his individual style. Also influential was his study of the work of the prominent Philadelphia painter Thomas Birch, who focused on marine subjects for much of his oeuvre. Bonfield's work in the mid-19th century, which tended towards romantic rather than realistic treatment, was especially popular with Philadelphia merchants and shipowners, and he was active in numerous artistic societies, academies and societies. The Delaware River was a favorite background for his paintings, but the artist tended to name many of his works with generic titles that make it difficult to identify specific ships or places. His popularity declined after the Civil War.
In the foreground is a small, open-decked gaff-rigged sailing vessel-probably a fishing boat-beached on the low tide. A crewman is leaning over the side to either take or give something to the man on the beach. Four similar craft ply the middle ground of the image. In the background are two full-rigged American ships; the nearer (larger) one has only topsails set, and the more distant vessel has no sails up and apparently is anchored into the wind. Unfortunately, the absence of any landmarks or detailed topography in this painting prevents identification of the scene.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
painting
painting, oil
date made
1865
maker
Bonfield, George Robert
Physical Description
oil on canvas (overall material)
Measurements
without frame: 24 in x 36 in; 60.96 cm x 91.44 cm
with frame: 28 in x 40 in; 71.12 cm x 101.6 cm
ID Number
2005.0279.003
accession number
2005.0279
catalog number
2005.0279.003
subject
Maritime
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
Art
Cigna Maritime Collection
Transportation
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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