Few ships can match the romanticism of the clipper. Huge and majestic, with a sharp-eyed, saltwater skipper in command, its three masts laden with 10,000 square feet of sail, canvas taut and rigging humming, this ship could thrash through the blue waters of the world at 20 knots or more, powered only by the wind.
Developed by American shipbuilders in the 1840s, the clipper revolutionized water transport. And few artists could depict these vessels as well as Henry Scott.
Born in Britain 1911, as the curtain was coming down on the Age of Sail, Scott devoted much of his artistic life to preserving the memory of these great ships. His rendition of the British clipper Black Prince strongly evokes the vessel’s power and performance.
“His sails are nearly always bellowed with a good, stiff breeze, which is further emphasized by the spray of the water being wisped across the top of the choppy seas,” one observer wrote. Scott recreated the atmosphere of winds and waves, and how they affected the ship’s movement, giving his works a realistic effect. Critics said his skies were most notable, as they helped the canvas feel alive.
Black Prince was a tea clipper, 183 feet long and built for the run to the Orient for fresh batches of England’s favorite beverage. Speed was essential; the first ships back with new tea made the most money. And clippers were fast; Black Prince could get as far as Australia in less than three months. (The American clipper Lightning covered a record 436 nautical miles in just 24 hours.)
Scott believed the clipper ship made a big contribution to water transportation in that period and showed his appreciation through works like this.
This article originally appeared in the April 2020 issue.