Robert Salmon (1775–c.1845)
English Cutter and Lugger, off North Shields, 1840
Oil on panel, 16 1/2 x 24 1/2 in.
Inscribed verso in artist’s hand: No. 28 / Painted by R. Salmon/ 1840
Provenance: Hyland Granby, Hyannis Port, Massachusetts; private collection, Katonah, New York, until 2000; Godel & Co., New York; private collection, Boston, Massachusetts, 2001 to the present
Listed: John Wilmerding, Robert Salmon, Painter of Ship and Shore (Salem, Massachusetts: Peabody Museum, 1971), p. 97, no. 28, described in the artist's own words as “January 1840. 24 by 16, 6 days. English cutter and lugger, off North Shields.”
Despite the title, English Cutter and Lugger, off North Shield, is a product of Salmon’s Boston period. Dated 1840, it shows an English revenue cutter presumably monitoring the traffic of customs and/or smuggled goods along the English coast. Cutters were extraordinarily fast and nimble and were able to sail almost directly into the wind, whereas any square-rigged vessel had to fall off and sail at a less head-on angle. The location is unusual, since most of Salmon’s English paintings are of the west coast, while North Shields is on the northeast coast. The lighthouse in the background is also of historic interest; North Shields was the site of the first use of ranging beacons, the small lights and towers that aligned with other landmarks to let captains know when they were in the proper channel. English Cutter and Lugger is a true masterpiece in all of its nautical detail; an achievement made even more impressive by the fact that a mere two years later, Salmon began to suffer from eye problems.