Down to the sea in ships

They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.

Psalms, 107:23-27, KJV

One of my greatest addictions is historical fiction, and one of the finest authors I’ve found for the British Naval experience during the Napoleonic period is Patrick O’Brian. I’ve read his entire Aubrey/Maturin series three times now, and the series has grown in popularity immensely since the movie “Master and Commander, The Far Side of the World” was released. The movie and the books succeed so well because they are highly authentic in their portrayal of the period.

 On each of the covers are some great paintings, and those are what this article is about. Geoff Hunt, President of the Royal Society of Marine Artists is the best marine artist of our time, and possibly of all time. He has a sense for the correct color, light, and motion that is essential to marine painting, and gets those consisently right. You could take the ships entirely out of his paintings, masterworks that they are in themselves, and marvel for hours at how well he has painted the motion of waves and light and waters.

He gets the physics right — the clouds are not phantasmagorical creations, the waves do not deny reality, all is how the ocean really is. So many marine artists fail from the beginning by skewing perspective and motion of waves, it must be terribly hard to get it it right since few seascapes exist that feel entirely right. Many are out there that initially appear striking, however a few minutes examination leaves you sensing something’s wrong, you can see the wave out of sync with it’s peers, the spray flung too high for the size of the wave, and other details that throw you off from an otherwise fine painting.

Above all that, his depictions of the ships of the Napoleonic time are perfection to the last detail, from the rigging, to the shape and set of the sails for the wind, to postions, demeanor, and dress of the crew for the condition of sea that the ship is in.

I have three of his prints framed on my walls, and I highly recommend them to all. Below is a sample print of the Indefatigable, this is one of the prints I have. It’s linked to Geoff Hunt’s site if you click on it, you can see more of his fine work, or purchase prints for yourself.