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Passing Squall

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The sea rolls without remorse, riled up by the storm that just passed through, coloring the sky a menacing indigo with its departure. The crew aboard the Albert J. Lutz navigates her carefully through the swells, yielding to the ocean’s force with storm trysail set and a reefed foresail.

Artist Thomas Hoyne had an affinity for capturing the dangers of working the water in everything from fishing boats to sailing vessels, and he was renowned for his ability to depict ships with such realism that his paintings feel “wet” to the touch. Remarkably, he did so without ever stepping aboard most of them, as they had long since gone missing. Such was the case for the Albert J. Lutz depicted in this 24-by-36-inch oil painting, Passing Squall.

The Canadian halibuter from Digby, Nova Scotia, was built in 1908 and was known for her swiftness, winning the Britain trophy in 1912 with Captain John Apt. She disappeared after World War I, but her legacy lives on in Hoyne’s painting.

Hoyne grew up in the Midwest, but he spent his childhood summers in Maine, where he got to know some marine artists and developed a love for the water. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he became a commercial illustrator, but in the mid-70s, photography started taking over the advertising industry. In addition, Hoyne was diagnosed with cancer, and those two factors compelled him to shift careers and become a marine artist.

Hoyne did extensive research on each vessel, checking ship records and reading articles to ensure his paintings were accurate. Often, he would have models built by renowned ship model artist Erik A. R. Ronnberg, place them in a box of kitty litter to show how the waves would rake the hull, and sketch and photograph them for reference.

“Each ship painting would take him as much as a month,” says his son, Scott Hoyne. Hoyne, who passed away in 1989, completed approximately 100 marine paintings during his lifetime, and he was considered one of the greatest contemporary artists of his time. 

This article was originally published in the October 2021 issue.

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