The Extreme Clipper
Arrives in London
After the original oil on board, ca. 1849

(British / American) 1817-1894)

James Edward BUTTERSWORTH. The Extreme Clipper, Enterprise of New York Arrives in London. ca. 1849
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This early work from James Edward Buttersworth is quite unlike his later, more typical depictions of ocean going vessels struggling in rough weather or of racing yachts competing for the America's Cup. This carefully crafted and highly detailed image is very probably his finest work.

The ship is flying the Stars and Stripes as its ensign and as house flags, the American Union Jack and a pennant that later became the house flag of the Red Star Line founded in 1871.  This, however, is not a Red Star Line ship as Red Star only ever owned or chartered steam powered vessels.

The vessel is of a type known as an Extreme Clipper, the first of which, Rainbow was launched in 1845. These sacrificed capacity and stability for speed. Others followed from 1848. When used between England and the east coast of America they became part of a fleet commonly referred to as "New York Packets" or "Atlantic Packets", usually completing the crossing in 16 days or less. The design was very quickly made obsolete by the larger, faster and more profitable "Medium Clipper" introduced from 1854.  

Although the tugboat bears the legend "London", this does not in itself confirm the location as being the Thames. However, the domed church on the horizon does support the contention as no such building then existed in the alternative ports of Liverpool, Bristol, New York or Boston. It can only be St. Paul's Cathedral, London. The multitude of Thames Wherries, the uniforms and craft of the Thames Watermen and the style of the waterside architecture all add to this evidence of location.

Buttersworth left for America in 1847. By the following year new railway connections to North West England meant that it was very much cheaper and quicker for everyone to sail to America via Birkenhead, near Liverpool. Thereafter, New York Packets were almost entirely absent from the Port of London. But being in America at the time, Buttersworth would not have known this. So although Buttersworth briefly returned to London in 1851 he could not possibly have been confronted with the scene as painted.

Whilst this painting's principal subject can confidently be dated to post 1847, Buttersworth's absence from London between 1847 and 1851 forces the conclusion that the background and flanking detail were painted from sketches of the Thames that Buttersworth took with him to America and that these were then combined with first hand observation of the new breed of extreme clippers then running from New York and Boston.

Considering all these facts, the painting can confidently be dated to within a year of 1849.

The original work is seriously degraded by extensive craquelure, corroded varnish and white lead discolouration. .


FINE ART CANVAS  EDITION -  Limited Edition of 100.

Image:           18 x 26 inches (476 x 667 mm)
Canvas Sheet:  24 x 30 inches       (508 x 762 mm).

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