The Posner Maritime Art Collection

Is this the Princess Royal or Royal Princess circa 1850, and can anyone provide further information about the artist J. Beckett? New curatorial interpretation is being presented as researched by SSHSA Board Member James Shuttleworth. If you can help, please contact us at info@sshsa.org.

SSHSA is adding interesting facts and information about these maritime artists and their works.   

SS Humboldt
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SS Humboldt by Louis Gamain
Lithograph, 16" x 33" Louis Honore' Fre'de'ric Gamain.  (1803-1871), French.  Gamain exhibited at Solon, Paris 1833-1844.  Additional paintings are in the Augustin-Normand Collection at Marseilles, France.  Ref. Dorothy Brewington, page 148.  SS Humboldt is pictured headed to France, flying the French courtesy flag, on the foremast. Additionally, she is flying the American Union Jack at the bow; a name flag at the mainmast; a US Mail flag from her mizzenmast; and the US Ensign from her stern.   She is likely pictured off Le Harve, with a French pilot cutter approaching the stern.

SS Humboldt was a wooden side-wheeler, built in 1850, for the New York and Harve (France) Steam Navigation Company.  She had a running mate, the SS Franklin, the two replacing the steamers Washington and Hermann.  The Washington was the first US Mail steamer in the Atlantic, but is also said to have been one of the ugliest ships ever.

SS Humboldt was built in 1850 and wrecked in December 1853 off Halifax.  She was 2,350 tons, and began service with the New York and Harve Steam Navigation Company in 1851.

Louis Honore Frederic Gamain, born on 22nd April, 1803, in Le Crotoy, France, on the estuary of the river Somme, died in Le Havre, France on 1st March, 1871, where he seems to have worked essentially as a ship portraitist. He was a pupil of Theodore Gudin, France's leading painter of sea battles.

S.S. Caronia
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SS Caronia by W. Bennett
Oil on canvas, 12" x 18", "SS Caronia" Labeled lower left.  Signed "W. Bennett 1905" lower right.  O/C.   This Bennett should not be confused with William James Bennett (1787-1844); nor William Bennett (1811-1871),  both English artists. Obviously, they were not alive in 1905.   Further information on W. Bennett was not found in artist's dictionaries that fits the 1905 period.   The date of the painting appears under his signature.  He appears to be a self taught artist.   While a very nice painting, it borders on naive.  (Note the stylized wave pattern).  Since it is signed in the early 1900s it is probably contemporary with launching SS Caronia of the Cunard Line.  A later Caronia, built in 1946, had a green hull and a single funnel.

SS  Caronia was launched for Cunard Line in 1904, by John Brown & Co. on the Clyde River, Scotland.  Except for military service during World War I, she was a passenger liner from 1905 to 1932.  In 1932 she was sold for scrapping in Blyth, England, then she was resold to the Japanese, sailed to Japan as Taiseiyo Maru, and was scrapped at Osaka in1933.    Since the painting is dated 1905 the likely scenes/backgrounds for the painting are 1) Liverpool, or 2) Clyde River near Glasgow.

s.s nicholson
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USS Nicholson by A. F. Bishop (American 1855 - after 1927).
Oil on canvas, 27" x 36", Scene of WWI U.S. destroyer rescuing crew of a German submarine. 

The signature is "A.F. Bishop" on the painting.  This may be an unusual signature for this artist or very early in his career.  He was active 1911-1927;  and he was an artist for Scientific American magazine.  However, he generally signed with a monogram, an "A" and an "F" intertwined with an anchor  (the "B" is not indicated). 

The American destroyers USS Nicholson (DD-52) and USS Fanning (DD-37) are shown on the left side of the painting, rescuing German submariners (of U-58). 

SSHSA member John Arnold, MD, contributed this explanation:

"USS Nicholson is rescuing the sub crew along with the USS Fanning. On November 17, 1917 the destroyers USS Nicholson and USS Fanning engaged and forced to the surface the German submarine U-58.  The U-58 was attempting to attack a British merchantman in a convoy the two destroyers were escorting in the Western Approaches in the North Atlantic.  After surfacing and following an exchange of gun fire the U boat commander surrendered, and then scuttled the submarine by flooding its ballast tanks.  The German crew was rescued by the two American destroyers.  This was one of the few, if not the only time, US warships had a confirmed kill of a U boat in World War I.  Undoubtedly this rescue is what inspired the painting.  A famous poster, entitled "They Kept the Sea Lanes Open" showing a US destroyer sweeping by a surfaced and surrendering U boat  was also inspired by this action."

USS Nicholson (DD-52) was launched in August 1914 and commissioned in April of 1915.  She was built by William Cramp and Sons at Philadelphia, USA.  Upon the entrance of the US into World War I, in 1917,  she was assigned to convoy escort duties in the Irish Sea.   During most of 1918 she was assigned to escort duties off the coast of France.  USS Nicholson was scrapped in 1936.  USS Fanning (DD-37) was a Paulding-class destroyer, built in 1910. After her service in WWI, she was transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard (CG-11) and in 1934 sold by the US Navy for scrapping. 
SY wanderer
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SY Wanderer  "Coats" 1885
Oil on canvas, 14 1/2 " x 24",   It is signed Coats and is dated 1885. We have yet to find biographical information about  Coats.  The vessel is a steam yacht of the Pilgrim Yacht  Club, based on the yacht club burgee on the foremast.  The Pilgrim Yacht Club is now defunct.  It was located in Bath Beach Long Island, NY, in 1899.  This is in Gravesend Bay, just south of the Verrazano Bridge on the Southwest tip of Brooklyn, LI, NY .    The flag on the mainmast is likely the owner's personal flag.  In 1900 a similar personal flag belonged to William Dudley.

The SY (Steam Yacht) Wanderer is shown slowly steaming on a lake or river (perhaps the Hudson R.), with five flags flying.  On the bow is the Union Jack; the Pilgrim Yacht Club Burgee on the foremast; the owner's personal flag on the mainmast; the name flag from the gaff; and the American Yacht ensign at the stern, however, this flag is painted incorrectly.  Wanderer is about 45 to 50 feet in length, judging from the height of the passengers.  Coats has skillfully shown the reflection of the yacht in flat waters of the scene. 

RMS Brittanic
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RMS Brittannic & RMS Celtic at Queenstown, Ireland by Parker Greenwood
Oil on canvas, 12" x 18" This beautiful painting was done by British artist and former Cunard Line Ship’s Officer, George Parker Greenwood.  The signature in the lower right of the painting, is somewhat illegible, but has been compared to an almost identical painting  signed by Greenwood. 

The scene depicts two White Star Line ships, the RMS Britannic (I) built in 1873 by Harland and Wolff of Ireland, towing the damaged RMS Celtic (I) 1872, probably back to Liverpool, England for repairs.   The Roches Lighthouse, at the entrance to Queenstown is on the right.  The scene dates about 1884, based on the other, near identical painting.  Note the British type paddle tug to the right of Britannic.  Also note the American courtesy flags on the foremasts of the still sail-rigged steamships.  Although inappropriate for vessels enroute to Liverpool, both were probably enroute from Liverpool, via Queenstown, to New York, prior to the incident that required a return to Liverpool.  The tow line between the two steamships can be seen draped from the stern of Britannic to the bow of Celtic. This description was provided by Dr. Sam Davidson, author of Marine Art and Liverpool, and four other books about British marine artists.

(George) Parker Greenwood was listed in the Liverpool city directories as early as 1881 as a mariner, and later as an artist.  He was a very prolific marine artist, working out of Liverpool, receiving commissions from both the Cunard and White Star Lines, and is particularly known for his fine paintings of their Transatlantic liners 1880 to circa 1910.   For more information about Parker Greenwood's paintings see the following web sites:  Blue World Web Museum and BBC - Your Paintings - George Parker Greenwood.

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Princess Royal by J. Beckett
Oil on canvas, 19" x 33", a British paddle-steamer in rough seas. Although signed by the artist, J. Beckett, no definite information has been found about this artist.  A " J. Beckett" is listed in E. Benezit's Dictionary as a landscape painter, exhibiting in London,  1846-47, at the British Institution and Suffolk Galleries.  The vessel, Royal Princess appears to be paddle -steamer of the 1840s to 1860s.  A possible candidate is the Royal Princess, built 1841, at London,  for the General Steam Navigation Company for service between London and Scotland.   If this is the vessel she was 687 tons and  her dimensions would be 178 x 28 x 17.7 feet.  The time period also coincides with the J. Beckett, listed above.    Reference: Lloyd's Register, 1858.

Ottawa Norge
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SS Ottawa  by Olaf Gulbransen
Oil on canvas, 7" x 14", This small painting of the SS Ottawa, a cargo freighter,  is signed Olaf Gulbransen, 1917.  Gulbransen was likely a sailor aboard the vessel,  an amateur painter, or both.  He does not show up in any of the many marine artist dictionaries nor web sites.  Nothing else has been determined about him.  If an amateur, he displays skill as an artist.  He should not be confused with the well known Olaf Gulbransson. 

"Norge" as painted on her hull with Ottawa, means Norway and is her Country of Origin  identification as a neutral Norwegian vessel during the First World War.  The Norwegian Flag is also painted on the sides of the hull.  German U-boats of WWI could clearly see these markings through their periscopes.  Ottawa was built as SS Craigisla, in 1906, at Port Glasgow by A Rodgers (Scot & Company) and enjoyed a 35-year career, under various names until torpedoed by a German U-boat, in an Allied convoy in 1941.   Her names were as follows: 1906 - 1910 SS Craigisla; 1910-1935 SS Ottawa; 1935 -1939 SS Senta; 1939-1942 SS Siremalm.  She was 2,462 Gross Registry  Tons, 1,583 Net Tons;  capable of a speed of 9 knots, and powered by a triple expansion steam engine, of 248 NHP.  As Ottawa her signal letters were MGDR.

In this painting,  SS Ottawa is headed to the United States, as evidenced by the American courtesy flag at the foremast.  The Norwegian flag is at her stern.  At the time of the painting she was managed by Fred Thomas Bergh of Porsgrund, Norway.  His house flag flies from her mainmast and his funnel markings appear as a "B" in  a white band on a black funnel.  The mountain top, seen in the right background of the painting, is probably in Norway.

References: The Record of American and Foreign Shipping, 1917; and www.wrecksite.eu.

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SS Drenthe by unknown artist signed "DGY"
25" x 33" Drenthe is flying the Dutch flag.  She was a steamer of 2,296 tons, built at Newcastle, England in 1875.  Her dimensions were 295 x 36 x 26 feet.   From 1877 to 1883 Drenthe was owned by Ruys and Hoven, at Rotterdam, the Netherlands, according to American Lloyd's.  They probably had the vessel built in 1875, but this has not been verified.  The house flag flying from the mainmast, appears to be the same , or at least similar to that of Ruys and Sons, of Rotterdam, 1883, per Flags - National and Mercantile - House Flags and Funnels, published by Griffin and Co..  Per Lloyd's House Flags and Funnels, 1904, there was a company named Ruys and Zonen, in Rotterdam.  The House Flag was similar to that of Ruys and Sons.  So the painting dates from 1875 or later. 

Interestingly, William Ruys started business in 1844.  The company may still be in business today or was in recent times.  Over the years it developed into various other names such as "Rotterdam  Scheepvaart Maatschappij" (Wm. Ruys & Sons),  "Rotterdamsche Lloyd" (Wm. Ruys & Zonen), "Koninklijke Rotterdamsche Lloyd" (Wm. Ruys & Zonen), and "Royal Rotterdam Lloyd," among others.  In 1961, their flag ship, the Willem Ruys was sold to the Chandris Line, which renamed it Achille Lauro.  This was the ship that was taken over by PLO terrorists.  They killed an American in a wheel chair.  The artist who signed this painting "DGY," has not been identified.

untitled eh
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Untitled by artist "EH"
A liner in stormy seas, 14" x 21"
RMS Saxonia
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RMS Saxonia by W. Bennett
This painting is of RMS Saxonia (1899), a British Cunard Line passenger ship launched in 1899 and scrapped in 1925.   

RMS Saxonia (1899) was built by John Brown and Company Ltd, of Glasgow, Scotland.  Ivernia was her sister ship.  Saxonia was 14,281 tons, and 176 feet in length, rather small for the times.  She was launched in December 1899 and entered service for Cunard in 1900, Liverpool to Boston, USA until 1911.   She served as a POW ship and troop transport during the WWI.  After this she was in the Mediterranean or on war service.  After WWI she was on the Liverpool to New York, USA route.

Since the painting is dated circa 1900 the likely scenes/backgrounds for the painting are 1) Liverpool, or 2) Clyde River near Glasgow.  

"SS Saxonia" Lower left.  "W. Bennett 1900" Lower Right.  O/C.   This Bennett should not be confused with William James Bennett (1787-1844); nor William Bennett (1811-1871),  both English artists.   No "W. Bennett" appears in the various artists dictionaries of the period. He appears to be a self taught artist.   While a very nice painting, it borders on naive.  Since it is signed in the early 1900s it is probably contemporary with SS Saxonia of 1899, of the Cunard Line.   

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SS Dunkeld by Antonio Jacobsen
1906, 20 x 35

The painting of the steamship Dunkeld is not listed in The Checklist (see references below), but is listed as a sketch dated 1906.  The painting probably dates from this same time, done within a day or two of when the sketch was made.  SS Dunkeld was a British freighter, built in 1905, by Sir J. Laing and Sons of Sunderland, England.  She was 2,764 tons gross and 1786 tons net, 319.5 feet in length.  Dunkeld was owned by Kilgour Steamship Company, Ltd. of London.   At one time during her career she was chartered by the Munson Line.  A single deck, steel, single screw steamer, she was powered by a triple expansion engine, generating 284 NHP.  Her Official Number was 120521 and her signal letters were HOLP. The painting is very typical of Antonio Jacobsen's work.  See his painting of the New York Pilot boat New York,  also in this collection (SSHSA_POS_PA_0012).


Antonio N.G. Jacobsen (1850-1921) is the best known of American Ship portrait painters.  It has been estimated that he created some 8,000 paintings during his career (ca 1874-1921).  Some 5,000 to 6,000 paintings have actually been identified from found paintings, sketches in his sketch books, references in catalogs, from private collections, and in various notes.  He was known to finish a painting in a day.   He came from Denmark in 1873, as a young man, to avoid military service there.   Within a few years he started painting the ships he saw in New York Harbor.  Commissions poured  in and a stunning career began.

His painting style  can easily be recognized, especially the water, which remained consistent until his final years.  The vessels are mostly portrayed in port profile, nearly two dimensional.  He often went to see his subjects making a detailed sketch in a sketch book.  Many of these sketch books are now preserved at the Mariners Museum, in Virginia.  He used a system in creating the sketches, to record colors, dimensions, proportions, and special features.  He then created the paintings at his home studio.  He is also well known for putting his address on the paintings along with his signature.  He did this on the painting of the New York Pilot Boat New York.   When undated by Jacobsen, paintings can be dated to a relative range based on these addresses, because it is known when he moved to the various locations.  It has been said that he always charged $5.00 for his paintings, no matter the size, throughout his  roughly 50 year career.  He was able make a good living in those days from this $5 per painting fee.  Jacobsen knew many other famous marine painters in New York at the same time period.  Tony Peluso, marine art expert, refers to them as the Hoboken School.  Jacobsen often entertained Samuel Ward Stanton,  James Bard, James Buttersworth, Fred Cozzens, Fred Pansing, Worden Wood, and Albert F. Bishop in his home.  (See also the painting by Albert F. Bishop in this collection, SSHSA_POS_PA_0003).

Photography and other factors began to have an effect on his business, commissions dried up, in the early 20th Century,  so he began to speculate, creating paintings of long gone sailing vessels such as the famous Black Ball Line of Transatlantic Packet ships.  He had lived well during the hey days of his life. Unfortunately, he never saved for the future and fell on hard times towards the end of his career.   The Checklist is a book which lists the known paintings and sketches as of the date of its publication.  (See the references below).  Since then, many more Jacobsen paintings have come to light.

One of the original founders of the Steamship Historical Society of America and our first president, Mr. Elwin M. Eldredge (1893-1965), a well known steamship historian-archivist, of Brooklyn, was a close friend of Antonio Jacobsen.   He was also a client for Jacobsen's paintings, acquiring some 125 of them, starting about 1914.  In 1940, he gave his entire collection of Jacobsen paintings, letters, and notes to the Mariner's Museum.  Later, he facilitated Mariner's in obtaining the sketch books mentioned above.  The original idea for the Checklist of Jacobsen paintings, referenced below, was Eldredge's.

References:  The Checklist, compiled by Harold Sniffen, 1984; The Checklist, Addenda Number 2, compiled by Harold Sniffen, 1994; Painted Ships On Painted Oceans, by Harold Sniffen, 1994.  Anita Jacobsen (not related)  published From Sail To Steam - The Story of Antonio Jacobsen Marine Artist, 1972.  Mariner's Museum has a large collection of Jacobsen paintings as well as his sketch books. Other Jacobsen references exist and should be sought out by the serious collector or interested parties.

New York
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Pilot Boat New York by Antonio Jacobsen

This painting of the New York Pilot Boat New York, is signed and dated "A. Jacobsen, 1903."  Additionally he listed his address below his signature, a form of advertising common to most of his paintings.   According to The Checklist, Jacobsen created at least 35 paintings and sketches of this long serving, 1897 to 1952, pilot boat.  Most often the Pilot Boat New York is shown in profile, with another vessel shown incidentally off her bow.  Some of the paintings of New York are depicted in starboard profile, as in this case, breaking with his usual port profile format.  What appears to be the a passenger liner of the Cunard Line, is depicted off her bow.  New York appears in some paintings, incidentally, with another vessel as the subject.   From The Checklist, the dates of most of the paintings are known.  So, paintings with dates other than 1903 can be eliminated, as not being this particular painting.

New York is shown flying a large, square,  blue flag.   Although it does not display white stars, it likely is meant to be an American Union Jack.  American pilot boats displayed the Union Jack to indicate there were pilots available for hire.  Likewise, American vessels use the Union Jack to indicate the desire for a pilot to guide the vessel into harbor.  A pilot would be transferred to the incoming vessel, or from an outgoing vessel, in a small boat.  See Jacobsen's biography and painting of the Steamship Dunkeld,  also in this collection (SSHSA_POS_PA_0011).

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Signed by C? "Wallis", 12 x 24

Unidentified  painting of British English Channel Steam Paddle-wheeler off Dover, would appear to date from ca 1840-60, stylistically and subject wise. The flag at the top of the main mast is not the French Tricolor but rather a house flag. The shipping company has not been identified. (In the French flag the colors are reversed).



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