Cape Horn, looming in the background of this dramatic work by Russ Kramer, is one of the most dangerous places on Earth to sail. In 1888, without electronic navigation equipment or radio communications, it was even more so.
The boat in Kramer’s 16-by-24-inch oil on panel is the schooner yacht Coronet — at 131 feet, one of the largest sailing yachts of the Gilded Age. It was a time when the Morgans, Astors, Vanderbilts and other pillars of wealth commissioned some of the grandest vessels in yachting history. Launched for oil tycoon Rufus T. Bush in 1885, Coronet began a round-the-world voyage in 1888 that made her the first U.S.-registered yacht to fly her country’s colors off the Horn sailing west-about.
It’s this historic moment that Kramer depicts in his painting. Coronet is shown plunging on a port tack under shortened sail, explains the 56-year-old, Florida-based artist. The afternoon sun is weak through the threatening sky and off the schooner’s starboard bow, backlighting the scene. “There’s a spotlight just at her bow where the sea is lit green, and her wet varnish is gleaming,” Kramer says.
Kramer relies on a combination of techniques to create his works. He may pose subjects in period attire or use photography and computer software to incorporate realism and atmosphere. It also helps that he is tied to the sea, having sailed from Newport, Rhode Island, to Jamaica and competed in the St. Petersburg-Habana Race. He also has designed a 55-foot “gentleman’s fast motoryacht,” the Russ Kramer 55.
“His unique vision creates firsthand experiences for the viewer, putting you right on board during some of history’s greatest yacht races,” one art expert says. “Regardless of subject matter, a sense of the dramatic moment, combined with meticulous research and attention to detail, have helped his work find an enthusiastic audience among sailors and connoisseurs of fine painting.”
Editor’s note: Coronet is under restoration at the International Yacht Restoration School in Newport as a postgraduate learning opportunity. iyrs.edu/our-boats/coronet
To view this and other works by Russ Kramer, go to the J. Russell Jinishian Gallery website at jrusselljinishiangallery.com or visit the gallery at 1899 Bronson Road in Fairfield, Connecticut.
This article originally appeared in the December 2016 issue.