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JAMES BRERETON | American Clippers - Lightning and Red Jacket

JAMES BRERETON | American Clippers - Lightning and Red Jacket


24" x 36" / 61 x 91 cms
Oil on Canvas


Almost as large as Lightning, Red Jacket was built by George Thomas in Maine, and is notable for being the last ship to be built there before the Clipper industry fixed itself in Boston. Named after the famous Seneca chieftain who adorned her bow, she was designed by Samuel Hartt Pook, a rival of Donald McKay’s whose vessels often competed for records. This competitive design environment clearly had great effect, as Red Jacket managed to set a record on her very first voyage, travelling from New York to Liverpool in the then unheard-of time of 13 days and 1 hour. In her later career in Australia she almost beat McKay’s ship, James Baines’, record transit from Liverpool to Melbourne with a 69 day run. The painting probably captures the ship during this period, as both Lightning and Red Jacket carried wealthy passengers to Australia at breakneck speeds.


Brereton’s image captures a sense of the humming tension of a Clipper at full pace, and the intense work of the crew needed to sustain this speed is well illustrated by the figure working the rigging on the bowsprit over the bow on the ship in the foreground. The work offers a fitting comparison of two of the largest and fastest Clippers of the period, designed during their early 1850s heyday. The artist’s work is heavily indebted to Montague Dawson’s legacy; Brereton himself noted that when he first saw the great artists Clipper paintings in 1979 ‘as soon as I saw [it] I knew straight away that I wanted to paint like that’. The draw of the adventure and kinetic energy of these vessels is readily apparent in the work. Brereton has pointed out that as a child ‘living in Derbyshire as far away from the sea as you can get on this island meant I was always fascinated by it’; a very fascination is evident in this highly detailed work.

  • Born in Derby in 1954 James Brereton had a love and passion for art from a young age. He studied at the Joseph Wright Art School in Derby where he excelled in painting. Breretons success as a marine artist is shown through his love for the sea, something he nurtured whilst living on the English south coast. In addition to his passion for the ocean, his interest in the vessels of yesteryear brings a focus for painting nineteenth-century deep-water sailing ships. Notable for his exhaustive attention to detail his specialised work leads the field among contemporary marine artists. Brereton has been exhibited in the Royal Society of Marine Artists in London and the West End. His work can be found in private collections in the UK, Belgi