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In the Roaring Forties

Oil painting by Christopher Blossom

A full-rigged ship labors in heavy seas through the high latitudes of the Southern Ocean in this historic work by the noted artist Christopher Blossom. This part of the world is known to sailors as the “Roaring Forties,” the 40-degree latitudes where winds and waves sweep west to east around the globe almost uninterrupted.

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Gales and huge seas are common in this stretch of ocean, the region where Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared in early March.

Blossom, a third-generation marine artist, was inspired by an etching of a similar scene, a 1931 work by the noted British artist Norman Wilkinson. (One of Wilkinson’s works graced the first-class smoking room of the RMS Titanic, and he’s credited with developing “dazzle” camouflage for warships.) Wilkinson’s dramatic etching shows a boisterous, turbulent sea with a ship barely visible on the horizon. Blossom was intrigued by the motion of the water and the symbol of the tiny ship at the mercy of Mother Nature.

“I was then, and still am, always interested in finding different approaches to marine painting,” Blossom says. “I was particularly struck by the sense of space and mood Wilkinson was able to capture, accentuated by the small touch of human presence in the form of the very small ship dwarfed by the sea and sky.”

Although Blossom’s works include contemporary subjects, he’s well known for his historic paintings, such as “In the Roaring Forties.” Says one aficionado: “Christopher Blossom’s … unique ability to visualize in three dimensions has allowed him to re-create scenes from maritime history with a genuineness and feeling that is unequaled among his contemporaries.”

June 2014 issue