Geoff Hunt’s works are well-known to the many readers who have followed the adventures of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin in Patrick O’Brian’s historical sea novels, as they are the chosen cover art for these beloved books.
The British artist’s oil paintings, which depict the bold vessels of the Napoleonic Era, from the HMS Victory to the fictional HMS Surprise, are as captivating as O’Brian’s prose. The author himself once said, “Geoff Hunt’s pictures, perfectly accurate in period and detail, but very far from merely representational, are often suffused with a light reminiscent of [Italian Renaissance artist] Canaletto.”
So, what is the little workboat Star, tied up at a wharf in the village of Noank, Connecticut, doing in the Hunt pantheon of marine paintings? “I was over in Mystic for their Plein Air Painters show in June of 2018, and I spent four delightful days painting in and around Mystic and Stonington. Star happened to be in the harbor at the time,” Hunt says.
Hunt, 72, a member and former president of the Royal Society of Marine Artists, was drawn to the connection between his big warships and the New England fishing boat. “They are both built for a workmanlike purpose, and very little about them is unnecessary decoration,” he says. “Nor is there any provision for cruise passengers!”
Hunt paints in the style of plein-air, which means outdoors, allowing him to take a more spontaneous approach to his work. “Watercolor has been my chosen plein-air medium for some years now,” he says. “I enjoy its luminosity and immediacy of handling. The feeling of always dancing on the edge with this tricky medium is very stimulating, but it does give a failure rate much higher than with oils, especially when it rains.”
It was overcast along the southern Connecticut coast the day he worked on Star, “but the rain held off just long enough to let me paint.” More of Hunt’s work can be found in his book, The Sea Painter’s World: The New Marine Art of Geoff Hunt. —Steve Knauth
This article was originally published in the January 2021 issue.