Amazing art in San Diego: Classic paintings of ships!

Illuminating the Sea: The Marine Paintings of James E. Buttersworth, 1817-1894. This very special exhibit can be seen at the Maritime Museum of San Diego.
Illuminating the Sea: The Marine Paintings of James E. Buttersworth, 1817-1894. This very special exhibit can be seen at the Maritime Museum of San Diego!

Do you love breathtaking works of fine art? Are you fascinated by 19th century history? Do you like to feast your eyes on beautiful tall ships, sailing yachts and ocean scenery? There’s a special exhibit in San Diego that you positively must see!

I was surprised to discover that the Maritime Museum of San Diego, located downtown on the Embarcadero, is featuring a fantastic exhibit of marine art masterpieces by the famous painter James Edward Buttersworth. Buttersworth is considered to be one of the most important painters of the nineteenth century. His portraits of tall ships, racing yachts, steamships and other vessels from that era are beautiful works of genius, resplendent with light, energy and grace. About 600 of his classic paintings exist today, and the Maritime Museum has 24 amazing examples on display!

The exhibition is titled “Illuminating the Sea: The Marine Paintings of James E. Buttersworth, 1817-1894.”  The collected paintings, on loan from Mystic Seaport until May 31, 2016, are so dynamic, detailed and glowing with beauty, they’ll make a permanent impression in your mind. His images of sky and sea are realistic and alive. Colors are rich and subtle; stormy waters seem to spray off a painted canvas; white sails shine. Several paintings depict yachts racing together, engaged in historic competitions that include the America’s Cup, an event that became important in San Diego’s more recent past.

Another interesting aspect of the exhibition is the inclusion of a modern Buttersworth forgery by Ken Perenyi. Visitors to the museum can become a detective, and do their best to uncover the cleverly made fake!

Go enjoy this exhibit of rare, fantastic paintings, then prepare to spend a good hour or two exploring the many historic ships owned by the Maritime Museum of San Diego. You’ll find yourself within a magical world. A world that gently floats upon shining water, alive with history, adventure, beauty and wonder!

Among the classic maritime paintings of world-famous artist James E. Butterworth is a forgery. Visitors to the museum are challenged to spot it!
Among the classic maritime paintings of world-famous artist James E. Butterworth is a forgery. Visitors to the museum are challenged to spot it!
Truly stunning works of art on display inside the steam ferryboat USS Berkeley, hub of the Maritime Museum of San Diego.
Truly stunning works of art on display inside the steam ferryboat Berkeley, hub of the Maritime Museum of San Diego.
Illuminating the Sea, James E. Butterworth, oil on canvas. Magic, schooner of New York Yacht Club, winner of the America's Cup in 1870. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Illuminating the Sea, James E. Butterworth, oil on canvas. Magic, schooner of New York Yacht Club, winner of the America’s Cup in 1870. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
In addition to this world-class art, the Maritime Museum of San Diego contains a vast collection of nautical objects. It is a must-see destination for those interested in our city's rich history.
In addition to this world-class art, the Maritime Museum of San Diego contains a vast collection of nautical objects. It is a must-see destination for those interested in our city’s rich history.

Here are a couple bonus photographs!  I took them this morning during a short walk before heading to work!

Museum volunteers gather around a ship's yard, which would soon be lifted by crane onto the nearly-completed Spanish galleon replica San Salvador.
Museum volunteers gather around a ship’s yard.  It would soon be lifted by crane onto the nearly-completed Spanish galleon replica San Salvador.
Tall ships San Salvador and Californian docked behind the USS Berkeley. Just a few of the fascinating ships you can visit at the Maritime Museum of San Diego.
Tall ships San Salvador and Californian docked behind the Berkeley. Just a few of the fascinating ships you can visit at the Maritime Museum of San Diego.

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Published by

Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

8 thoughts on “Amazing art in San Diego: Classic paintings of ships!”

    1. Very cool! I often see Coast Guard helicopters leaving the station or arriving. Sometimes you’ll see a big Coast Guard Cutter in the bay or docked near Broadway Pier, too! Those guys are constantly saving lives off the coast, and doing other good work–they’re highly appreciated around here!

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