William Bygrave (19th C.)

William Bygrave (19th C.)

Following the War for Independence in the early decades of the nineteenth century, Americans began to send trading ships around the world to destinations such as China, Japan, India, Africa and Europe. As ship owners and captains became rich, a subsequent race to build fast ships emerged. By the middle of the century, ship portraiture became increasingly fashionable, and marine artists flourished in major seaports. One of these artists was William Bygrave, who created several important ship portraits between 1858 and 1862 in Messina, on the Island of Sicily.

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Little is known of this talented artist; like other marine painters he may have had his start as a sign or ornamental painter, and he may have received training in Italy as well. Not only was he capable of portraying the complicated shapes and rigging of the ship, but he was at ease depicting the delightful figures in the foreground, lending exotic local color to what might otherwise have been a standard ship’s portrait. Bygrave’s work rarely comes on the market, making his paintings an admirable addition to a marine-themed collection. A handful of museum's have acquired his work for their collections, including the Mariners’ Museum and Park in Newport News, Virginia; the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts; and the New Haven Museum in New Haven, Connecticut.

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