This oil painting on academy board depicts a Hudson River towboat with paddlewheel, walking beam, and smokestack. It depicts four men on deck, a white banner with red "A" in a ring of red stars flies above bow, and a gold statue of an eagle on top of pilot house. The boat's name, "AUSTIN" is inscribed in black with blue; a floral design is above the name on paddle box, while a larger, white banner with "AUSTIN" and two stars in red are depicted off the stern and obscures the top portion of an American flag. Small, firebuckets hanging diagonally on upper deck. The ship tows a dinghy. There is one vessel off the bow and three off stern.
The artist's inscription reads:"Picture Drawn & Painted by James Bard (/) 162 Perry St NY 1853 August th (sic) 8th" painted in lower, right hand corner. The painting is framed in a gilded, wooden frame. Two, paper labels indicate a loan to Hudson River Museum for "J. & J. Bard: Picture Painters" exhibition, which was held in 1997. The vessel was built for the Austin & Gillespie towing company of Albany, NY to haul barges. She was refitted over time and dismantled in 1898 at Perth Amboy, NJ.
James Bard (1815-1897) and his twin brother John (1815-1856) began painting steamships in 1827 at the age of twelve. By the age of 21 they began signing their work J & J Bard, Picture Painters and shortly thereafter were listed in the New York City Directory as artists, having painted by then dozen of works. Though prolific painters of sailing vessels and steamships- James alone is thought to have painted over 4,000 steamships- their canvases of oils and watercolors earned the brothers only a very modest income. Known for their technical realism, these canvases are now highly valued for their subtle artistic grace and record the history of steamship paddle wheelers for both pleasure and commercial shipping.
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