In 1977, Vose Galleries mounted an exhibition featuring Russell and Xanthus Smith’s work, followed two years later by another successful joint show. In 1997, the gallery opened a solo exhibition of Xanthus Smith’s Civil War paintings and drawings, featuring both landscapes and marines, including this depiction of the USS Jamestown at dock. The vessel was initially launched in Virginia in 1844 and for the next sixteen years served in many naval operations from the west coast of Africa to the North Atlantic waters off Ireland to the South Atlantic waters off Brazil, before being decommissioned at Philadelphia in February of 1860. In June of the following year, she was recommissioned and served honorably and successfully in the Union Navy’s Atlantic Blockading Squadron until the war’s end.
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Dated 1861, the year before Xanthus Smith joined the Union cause, U.S.S. Sloop of War ‘Jamestown’ may have been captured during the period the vessel was stationed at a Union port, perhaps near Philadelphia where the artist lived, in preparation for her active duty. While painted before the Smith’s formal enlistment in the fall of 1861, the scene demonstrates the attention to detail that would soon draw the attention of his commanding officers, while also retaining his artistic flourish in rendering the clouds and sky.
Private collection, Charleston, South Carolina
With Vose Galleries, Boston, inventory no. 31974, February 1997
To private collection, New Canaan, Connecticut, October 1997 to present
(verso of paper in ink) U. S. Sloop of War Jamestown. / Painted on waxed paper as an experiment / Xanthus Smith / 1861
Previous Vose Galleries label, inventory no. 31974
Xanthus Smith (1839-1929): Scenes of the Civil War and Beyond, Rare Civil War Naval Views, Marines, and Landscapes, Vose Galleries, Boston, September 15 – November 15, 1997, illus. page 4