Painting by John Barber
It’s early morning at Capt. Johnny Ward’s dock on Jackson Creek near the mouth of the Rappahannock River in Virginia, and these two 60-foot wooden buyboats will soon be headed out into lower Chesapeake Bay for a day’s hard work.
Capt. Ward and his crew of three ran the boat in the background, the Iva W. (named after Mrs. Ward). Their main task was tonging for oysters, but at the end of the day they would go about buying the catch of smaller boats and skipjacks, bringing the cargo to Baltimore or Crisfield, Md., to sell. The boats were also used for fishing and crabbing, and they took on odd cargos, including produce.
Artist John Barber, 66, has been called the “premier chronicler of Chesapeake Bay life.” The North Carolina native, whose penchant for painting goes back to his childhood, discovered the region while studying art and graphic design at Virginia Commonwealth University. He has since gone on to a distinguished career depicting the Bay and its people.
This scene was a familiar one for the artist, and it remains one of his favorites. “I sailed from this harbor when these two boats were working as buyboats, as well as crab dredge boats,” Barber says. “I wanted to paint the scene as it appeared in earlier times.”
Barber has served on the board of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, generating and supporting efforts to preserve the Bay. “As I traveled and painted these scenes, I became close to the watermen and their plight, gleaning their catch from the dwindling resources of a threatened Bay,” he says.
More of the artist’s work can be found in the book, “John Barber’s Chesapeake,” published by the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (www.cbmm.org). Portions of the proceeds benefit the museum and the foundation.
Incidentally, the Iva W. survives today as a charter boat.
For more of Barber’s work, visit the J. Russell Jinishian Gallery website at www.jrusselljinishiangallery.com.
June 2013 issue