We can imagine marine artist John Stobart standing on the shores of Aucoot Cove, looking across to Converse Point in the distance. It’s a beautiful day on Buzzards Bay on the southern coast of Massachusetts, a good day for boating. And there are a variety of craft to admire: dinghies and an inflatable; an outboard runabout getting ready for a day trip; and that beautiful catboat, a symbol of the region’s rich maritime history.
Aucoot Cove is one of the hundreds of bays and coves dotting the New England coast, which was a safe haven for the sailing ships of old and today provides boaters with picturesque destinations and a chance to gunkhole in charming towns and villages along the shores.
Stobart has a feel for harbors, from the big ones in the cities to the small ones like Aucoot Cove. Considered by many to be the dean of American contemporary marine artists, some are surprised to learn he was born in England, in 1929. He fell in love with the sea as a lad. Serious studies began at age 16, and a sea voyage to South Africa gave him a feel for the water and its many moods. Stobart’s career as an artist began when he sold an early work depicting the steam ship he was travelling on to the shipping line that ran it.
Stobart, now 92, came to the U.S. in the 1960s and using oils began re-creating the harbors of North America during the Great Age of Sail. Stobart captures it all using a basic palette of just five colors: red, yellow, green, blue and brown, along with titanium white and a single brush. “Three primaries and a pair of convenience colors. Nice, simple and direct,” says New Jersey marine artist Paul Bachem. “Quite a bit can be done with only five colors.”
Stobart’s work is supported by hours of intensive research and on-site drawings. As a result, he is able to record not just maritime history on a grand scale, but little moments, too, such as a glance over a Buzzards Bay cove.
This article originally appeared in the May 2020 issue.