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New CBMM Exhibit Opens April 16 – Illuminating the Sea The Marine Paintings of James E. Buttersworth 1817-1894

Illuminating the Sea: The Marine Paintings of James E. Buttersworth, 1817-1894 — a major retrospective exhibition highlighting the work of famed 19th-century marine artist James Edward Buttersworth (1817-1894), opens at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM) in St. Michaels, MD, on Saturday, April 16, 2011. The show is organized by Mystic Seaport, the nation’s leading maritime museum, and will be on view in CBMM’s Steamboat Gallery through Sunday, October 16, 2011. The exhibit is partially financed by the Maryland Historical Trust, a part of the State Department of Planning.

A ship portraitist who meticulously illustrated America’s Golden Age of Sail, Buttersworth captured a realistic view of sea and sky while incorporating the human element into his work. James Edward Buttersworth (1817-1894) has long been recognized as a premier maritime artist distinguished by his story telling prowess, as well as his meticulous attention to detail with the brush and palette.

He began his career in England studying under his father, Thomas, a respected marine artist. The younger Buttersworth immigrated to the United States in the late 1840s, at the height of the Golden Age of Sail and steam transportation, and became immersed in chronicling the maritime world of New York. In illuminating American maritime history on canvas, Buttersworth became one of the most prolific marine artists of the nineteenth century. His paintings detailed packet ships, ocean steamships, clipper ships, naval frigates, harbor craft and most especially, the world of American yachting.

In the 1850s, Buttersworth contributed numerous paintings and sketches to Currier & Ives depicting famous vessels and marine disasters for their popular lithographs. Like his contemporary “luminist” and Hudson River School artists, Buttersworth excelled in the dramatic renderings of sea and sky, elevating the precisely detailed renderings of ships beyond document to art.

Paintings in the exhibition span Buttersworth’s entire career, beginning with his early British period works and ending with the 1893 America’s Cup series, completed a year before his death. The exhibition features 24 paintings, some of which were part of a gift to Mystic Seaport.
In 2006, Donald C. McGraw Jr., grandson of McGraw-Hill Inc.’s cofounder, bequeathed his private collection of 24 Buttersworth paintings to Mystic Seaport. This bequest brought Mystic Seaport’s total number of Buttersworth paintings to more than 50, making it the largest single public collection of the artist’s work.

Image: James E. Buttersworth (1817-1894) A New York Yacht Club Race with an American Warship at Anchor. Mystic Seaport Collection, 2007.53.17

Mystic Seaport is the nation’s leading maritime museum. Founded in 1929, the Museum is home to four National Historic Landmark vessels, including the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaleship in the world. Mystic Seaport also features a working preservation shipyard, a re-created 19th-century coastal village, numerous exhibits and a planetarium. The Museum’s collection of more than two million artifacts includes more than 500 historic vessels and one of the largest collections of maritime photography in the country. For more information, visit

Founded in 1965, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is the premier institution for studying, preserving, exhibiting and celebrating the rich maritime history, heritage, traditions and culture of the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal reaches. Situated on 18 waterfront acres in the historic town of St. Michaels, Maryland, the Museum offers exhibits, demonstrations, boat rides on the Miles River, and annual festivals that celebrate Chesapeake Bay culture, boats, seafood, and history. The Museum’s floating fleet of historic Chesapeake Bay watercraft is the largest in existence and its small boat collection includes crabbing skiffs, workboats, and log canoes. An accredited member of the American Association of Museums, the Museum is open seven days a week from 10am to 5pm during the spring and fall, and from 10am to 6pm in the summer. Admission is free for Museum members and children under six; otherwise admission is $13 for adults; $10 for seniors and military; and $6 for children six years of age and older. Free, on-site parking is available and the Steamboat Gallery is accessible to individuals with disabilities. For more information, call 410-745-2916 or visit

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