In this work by British artist Tim Thompson, titled “Schooner Yacht America and the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert off the Needles 1851,” we witness the American-built schooner cleaning up in the annual Queen’s Cup regatta, the prestigious 53-mile race around the Isle of Wight. Its 15 European competitors are far behind. Those aboard Victoria and Albert, including a disappointed Queen Victoria, are watching perhaps the most famous sailing race in yachting history.
The cup the Americans won became the America’s Cup, which sailors have been competing for over the past 170 years. Few artists are better in their depictions of the action than Thompson. With his signature style, he generates a feeling of movement, with sea and sky that make this more than just an image of a yacht race. This work is a picture of the sea.
Thompson grew up in the Channel Islands. Located in the English Channel off the Normandy coast, the maritime histories of Jersey and Guernsey are long and rich. There, living on the tiny Channel Island of Herm, surrounded by its infinite patterns of light and color, a 6-year-old Thompson drew his first picture—a watercolor of the ocean liner Queen Mary. And so was born his interest in art.
At age 27 he took up painting full-time, leaving behind his horticulture career with the Parks Department in England. Today, Thompson is renowned for his ability to create the maritime atmosphere in a painting. Placing multiple layers of translucent wash on canvas, he produces luminous backgrounds for his dramatic works. Though he’s well known for his America’s Cup paintings, his subjects have ranged from the ships of Sir Francis Drake to today’s modern racing yachts.
In doing so, he captures the universal. “Color and movement are vital components in my work,” says Thompson, who now lives along the rugged sea coast of southwestern England. “It is important that I see exactly how the sails of a yacht are formed when she is rounding a mark or how the ocean appears during a storm.”
This article was originally published in the March 2021 issue.