Boats moored at Cowes

Watercolour on paper 35.6 x 60cm; signed 'MARTIN SWAN', 2012

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In August 2001 the Americas Cup Jubilee Regatta was held at Cowes, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the original ‘Americas Cup’ race (then known as the Hundred Guinea Cup) staged there in 1851. The regatta attracted hundreds of classic sailing boats and racing thoroughbreds, and the culmination was a restaging of the original 1851 race of 75 nautical miles round the Isle of Wight.

The painting shows some of the participants at anchor in the glow of dawn. In the left foreground is the schooner Zaca A Te Moana, with Peter Harrison’s Americas Cup contender GBR 52 (?) in the centre. On the right is the schooner America with raked-back masts, a replica of the 1851 winner, and behind and to her left is Grand Turk, a reconstruction of the British frigate HMS Blandford (built 1741).

The artist’s command of his medium is revealed in the intense colouring of the morning sky, built up with layers of transparent pigment until the sweep of cloudless rose vibrates and merges into a plangent gold. The ships gather together in a marine conversazione beneath this heraldic sky, seemingly more animated than the tiny bundled figures which man them. This painting, as well as expressing the expectancy of early morning, also plays with ideas of time and change and mortality.

Biographical details

Martin  Swan was born in the Isle of Wight, and educated at the New University of Ulster, and University College, Aberystwyth. He studied sciences, philosophy and religion, but in the 1980s, when in his thirties, reverted to his boyhood occupation of drawing and painting. He spent about a decade as a landscape painter, before being seduced by the geometric shapes of and the play light and shadow on sailing boats; he came to specialize in resurrecting  the racing boats of the Solent from the second half of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries. He now paints marines as well as individual boats, and has also returned to landscape painting.

He has exhibited with the Royal Society of Marine Artists since 2000, being elected Associate Member in 2003 and Full Member in 2005. His first solo exhibition was held in the Isle of Wight in 2010.