James Edward Buttersworth British/American, 1817-1894


James Edward Buttersworth is considered by many to be one of the most accomplished painters of sailing vessels. Hailed for his ability to render maritime scenes in exacting detail, Buttersworth produced paintings that have been treasured by astute collectors and collected by museums for generations. Buttersworth executed countless marine paintings from subjects he observed in the waters off England and later off New York. Especially skilled at portraying the majesty, grace, and movement of sailing vessels, Buttersworth was in demand by patrons who experienced a strong sense of being pulled along because of the curves and flow in the wind-filled sails of his ships.

James Edward Buttersworth was born in London, England in 1817. His family comprised a number of marine artists. James received his first artistic training from his father Thomas Buttersworth Jr. who was himself a noted maritime artist. James immigrated to the United States in 1845 and settled in what was then known as West Hoboken, New Jersey and which is now known as Union City. He also maintained a studio in Brooklyn, New York beginning in 1854. Buttersworth arrived in America both fortuitously and propitiously during a period of time that would later be known as the Golden Age of Sail. Almost at once he set about executing marine paintings that portrayed packet ships, ocean steamships, clipper ships, naval frigates, harbor craft and glamorous yachts. Even to this day James Buttersworth is recognized and lauded as one of the most preeminent 19th century American ship portraitists. His style of painting is celebrated and collected for its meticulous detail, dramatic settings, and graceful renderings of the sleek new clipper ships which were setting all kinds of speed records around the globe. Nathaniel Currier and James Merritt Ives adapted many of their lithographs from his marine paintings which depicted famous vessels and marine disasters and which were executed between 1847 and 1865. In 1851 James returned to England in time for the Hundred Pound Cup Race which was held in August of 1851. The sketches and paintings that recorded the yachting competition provided a lasting record of the event. Throughout the 1850's Buttersworth continued to develop a formidable reputation as a ship portraitist. In 1893 one year prior to his death Buttersworth chronicled the Vigilant vs. Valkyrie Cup Match in a series of paintings which completed the recording of the America's Cup Races just prior to the advent of photography. 



American Art Union

Museums and Public Collections

Atwater Kent Museum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Butler Institute of American Art, Ohio

Bruce Museum of Arts and Science, Connecticut    

Cahoon Museum of American Art, Cotuit, Massachusetts

Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, Maine

Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, New York

Peabody Essex Museum, Massachusetts

Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey

U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia

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