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Oil Painting by Thomas Hoyne

Cancer struck Thomas Hoyne in 1972, when he was 48. He was given two years to live. A well-known magazine and advertising illustrator, he left his career behind and took up his marine artist’s brushes for good, intent on painting “the great sail-driven vessels” of the Grand Banks while he still had the time.

During the next 17 years, until his death in 1989 (doctors, be damned), the self-taught Hoyne created around 100 paintings depicting, with a mixture of exacting detail and compelling atmosphere, the lives of 19th- and early-20th-century New England fishermen.

The work Handliners is a fine example of his style. Two dorymen are fishing with a handline—a laborious method that was believed to catch better-quality fish than trawling methods, so much so that handlined fish brought a better price at market. Hoyne’s paintings often show men harvesting the sea in ships and small boats, including schooners, pinkies, knockabouts and steamers, dories and seine boats.

In this 24 x 36 oil, the vessel in the background is the Susan R. Stone that was built in Essex, Massachusetts, at the A.D. Story yard and launched in 1888. A fast sailer on the Grand Banks fishing grounds, she foundered in 1897 with the loss of all hands. Hoyne, a founding fellow of the American Society of Marine Artists, believed in accuracy. He commissioned modeler Erik A.R. Ronnberg to fashion a pinky schooner as a study, and sometimes posed himself in working clothes such as a sou’wester and boots.

“Hoyne’s paintings are pure realism, but underlying the simple images is the powerful recall of a heroic period in the history of America,” wrote Reese Palley and Marilyn Arnold Palley in their book, Wooden Ships and Iron Men: The Maritime Art of Thomas Hoyne. “[It is] realism through which shines the indomitable human spirit of seamen who loved their calling as they loved life itself.”

This article originally appeared in the January 2019 issue.



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Watch Hill Harbor from the Lawn

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Neck and Neck

They were known to the British as the “Big Class.” The America’s Cup boats of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were unruly — sometimes downright perilous — racing machines.



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Charles W. Morgan Off Cape Horn

The wave in the foreground dominates the scene in Paul Garnett’s dramatic Charles W. Morgan Off Cape Horn.

Photo of painting by William R Davis

Last Sail Of The Season

“It’s like a vessel that needs a couple of coats of paint for the true color to come out,” William Davis says. He’s describing the way he layered the oils to convey nature’s subtle shades in Last Sail of the Season. “You work in stages. The sky — it might take several coats to get it right.”


Racing on Long Island Sound

For Andrew Walton, becoming an artist was in the cards. “The art chooses you, not the other way round,” says Walton, who is known for his detailed renderings of ships and boats and those who handle them.