J.M.W. Turner’s sensationalistic white caps and listing ships are the archetype of boats paintings. The high seas drama genre peaked with Eugène Delacroix and Édouard Manet, concurrent with what is referred to as the Golden Age of Sail between the years 1830 to 1880. When sail-powered trading gave way to steamboats, so did art’s love affair with oil paintings starring boats. (Thomas Eakins’s dingies and skulls are an exceptional case, but Eakins was an exceptional painter and totally DGAF.) International trade is still mostly moved by boat, but it’s difficult to romanticize shipping containers.
Though modern and contemporary nautically-themed art is comparatively sparse, its content is richer. Rather than projecting a one-liner of political “Progress ho!,” the boat’s symbolism has expanded to include luxury lifestyles, sexuality, and Zen ideals. To celebrate America’s Cup World Series and Fleet Week in San Francisco this weekend, here are some salty works:
America’s Cup World Series, San Francisco, will hold regattas through Sunday, October 7.
San Francisco’s Fleet Week will hold events from Thursday, October 4, through Tuesday, October 9, when the ships depart.
Eric Fischl, “The Old Man’s Boat and the Old Man’s Dog”, 1982. http://www.ericfischl.com/html/en/paintings/early1_82_029.html
Eva Hesse, No Title, 1969. http://artobserved.com/2010/04/
Andrew Wyeth, “Adrift,” 1982. https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/Be4WZiaN_EILD5Bv0WD3ew William T. Wiley, “Ship’s Log”, 1969. http://www.sfmoma.org/explore/collection/artwork/4806 Louise Bourgeois, “Rain on a Boat, state II”, 2002. http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=119566 Yayoi Kusama, “Kusama posing in Aggregation: One Thousand Boats Show”, 1963. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00ngb2t
Ron Mueck, “Man In A Boat”, 2002. Mixed media – 1/3 scale naked man seated toward the prow of a 4-metre-long rowing boat. http://www.redbubble.com/people/james505/works/5270809-ron-mueck-man-in-a-boat
Jeff Koons, “Guilty”, 2008. http://uglyships.files.wordpress.com/2008/12/guilty.jpg