Nautical art is at home in Annapolis

Fine art, it goes without saying, is at home anywhere, but there's real synchronicity when Annapolis plays host to an exhibit titled Where the Water Meets the Land.

Dominated as it is by water geographically, historically, industrially and culturally, Maryland's capital city would seem a marvelous venue for works of art with such a theme.


And so it is at the Mitchell Gallery on the campus of St. John's College in the exhibit Where the Water Meets the Land: Selected Paintings from the Phelan Collection, 25 nautical images on loan from Washington-area art collector Jay Phelan. The exhibit runs through Sept. 10.

From 19th-century ship portraits to Depression-era paintings of industrial waterfronts, the exhibit spans a century of American life, a history that is reflected with startling clarity by these ships, seascapes and images of life along the shore.


For 19th-century artists, the greatest artistic challenge was a realistic depiction of nature in action, a priority reflected in the works of artists such as Alfred Bricher, William Trost Richards and Maryland's John Ross Key, grandson of the illustrious Francis Scott Key, who not only authored our national anthem but was also a St. John's College alumnus.

Realism extends to a selection of ship portraits, including an 1828 rendering of the U.S.S. Constitution, and the James A. Stevens created by James Bard, the foremost painter of steamboats on New York's Hudson River.

Decades later, European impressionism would find many adherents in the American art community, including a number of Connecticut painters who depicted old New England coastal towns in a manner designed to arouse nostalgia for a simpler, pre-industrial America.

Noank Harbor by Eliot Clark, and views of Mystic, Conn., by Walter Clark and George Thompson are examples of this genre.

For images of life along the shore, there is Duck Shooting, Chesapeake Bay by James Brade Sword, and beach scenes by Percy E. Moran and Edmund Greacen.

As for industrialized America, Julius Delbos crafted images of automobiles in his Chappaquiddick Ferry, while Palmer Hayden's vision of the Hudson River included steam ships and bridges.

The Mitchell's art educator, Lucinda Edinberg, will give a gallery talk on the exhibition at 3 p.m. Sunday.

All Mitchell Gallery exhibitions and events are free and open to the public unless noted otherwise, but registration is requested for all events. Information is available by calling 410-626-2556. The Gallery is open noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday. It is in Mellon Hall, St. John's College, 60 College Ave., Annapolis.