Maritime Art

Jersey has a long maritime history which is reflected in the strong tradition of marine painting, particularly of ship portraiture. Owners and masters were very proud of their ships and often commissioned artists to paint them, giving details of the masting, the rigging and the sails as well as the size and sturdiness of the vessel.

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Privateering was rife in the Channel Islands, and many Jersey family fortunes are founded on this trade. Jerseymen were fishing for cod off the coast of Newfoundland 100 years before the colonisation of that area. Jersey merchants and seamen have always been at the forefront of maritime trade. All of these factors together contributed towards the development of the shipbuilding industry in Jersey. During the 19th century over 700 ships were built in the Island.

Owners often used paintings of their ships as adverts for future trade, so they would need to show the ship to be strong and reliable. The artist therefore had to be meticulous about such details as the number of sails, the crew, the flags, and to combine all of these elements to produce an unmistakable likeness in which the owner took justifiable pride. The main exponent of this subject matter in Jersey was Philip John Ouless (1817-1885) and many of his fine ship portraits can be seen in the Maritime Museum.