Eldred's - Auctioneers, Appraisers

James Edward Buttersworth

James Edward Buttersworth: Sold at Eldred's, July 2013 for $177,000

Sold at Eldred's, July 2013 for $177,000


1817 - 1894

James Edward Buttersworth’s paintings are particularly known for meticulous detail, dramatic settings and a graceful sense of movement.

Buttersworth was born in London 1817. He is believed to be the grandson of Thomas Buttersworth, Sr. and the son of Thomas Buttersworth, Jr., both noted maritime artists. He moved to the United States in the late 1840s, at the height of the Golden Age of Sail, when ship builders and captains were the celebrities of the day. Buttersworth settled in Hoboken, New Jersey, in a home with a view of New York Harbor, and dedicated his career to capturing the maritime world, painting nearly 600 portraits of yachts, steamers and racing clipper ships.

He garnered a reputation for accurate representations of sailing vessels, yet his work always exhibited a certain majesty and romanticism. Vessels were frequently portrayed on the diagonal, with elongated hulls and full sails, to create a sense of speed and motion. He prowled the waters of New York Harbor in a little boat, which enabled him to paint from the perspective of being on the water. He frequently heightened the storytelling aspect of his work with low horizon lines, dramatic skies and stormy seas. 

Many of his works were chosen by Currier & Ives as subjects for lithographs. His images were also used in magazines and newspapers that reported the yachting events of the day.

Buttersworth is recognized today as the definitive ship portraitist of his era, and his work can be seen in public and private collections throughout the United States.  For his work capturing the defining races of his time, Buttersworth was inducted into the America's Cup Hall of Fame in 1999.

Last updated: July 17, 2014

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