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Neck and Neck

Oil Painting by  Tim Thompson

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.

British artist Tim Thompson captures the danger in the speed and power of these 120-foot megasloops in his startling work Neck and Neck. Everything is big: the taut canvas sails, the bow waves, the crashing sea — everything except the crewmen. They were Thompson’s inspiration. “I wanted to capture the action, showing the daring bowmen,” he says.

Anyone who has manned the foredeck on a racing boat, be it a J/24 or a Cup boat, knows the feeling: riding the bucking bow, spray flying, hands wet, face streaming, out there to handle a snapping, flapping headsail. “What a job to work those sails and lines in that precarious position,” Thompson says.

The boats could be Valkyrie II and Vigilant from the 1893 Cup, the 67-year-old artist says, “but I added little embellishments. It’s a general racing scene; it’s no particular moment or race. What’s important are the crewmen on the foredeck and bowsprit.”

Thompson draws on the techniques of 17th-century Dutch artists to create shades of color with washes and tints, “always trying to get the light to give a glow to the sails,” he says.

Thompson got his first break as an artist after an injury at work while he was a horticulturist in England. “I took the easel and started to make a better living by painting nautical historical subjects in Plymouth and Devon,” he says.

Born in Hull, England, in 1951, Thompson lived for a time on the rugged, sea-girt Channel Islands. He now resides and paints in Cornwall. Honored in Great Britain, Thompson’s book, Gold Medal Rescues, about the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, has a foreword by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, who signed a limited edition of his print commemorating the 50th anniversary of D-Day.

To view this and other works by Tim Thompson, visit the J. Russell Jinishian Gallery website at or visit the gallery at 1899 Bronson Road in Fairfield, Connecticut. Call ahead for gallery hours, (203) 521-1099.

This article originally appeared in the May2018 issue.



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.



The 52-foot racing yacht Dorade careens in a very stiff following wind on her way to a record performance in the 1931 Transatlantic Race, with the spinnaker sheet led to windward of the forestay and eased out.


Brant Point Light

Nantucket Harbor, Massachusetts. We’re looking across the main channel toward Brant Point Light; the Coatue Wildlife Refuge is behind and to the right of this iconic island symbol, with Wauwinet in the distance.


A Race to Remember

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.

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.”


Watch Hill Harbor from the Lawn

Anyone who’s driven down into the town of Watch Hill, Rhode Island, and along the stretch of harborfront knows the scene.


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.