This artist didn’t just love painting, he loved the bustling everyday marine activity that took place near the mouth of the Tyne River, in the north of England near Newcastle. His realistic and skillful portrayals of these scenes document the life and atmosphere that he observed apparently on nearly a daily basis from around 1875 until his death in 1913.
Bernard Benedict Hemy was the youngest brother to two other Hemy marine painters. It is generally believed that the family lived in Australia for a few years. Bernard became a seaman for a time, taking up painting seriously only after first considering a life in the priesthood. He exhibited a few paintings in London early in his career, but then, apparently unwilling to travel far from the family home in Newcastle, he concentrated on venues in and around his local area, including the Bewick Club and other well-known galleries. (The northeast coast of England has long attracted artists for its unique light, including the Staithes group of painters. In fact, as early as 1843 a Government School of Design was established in Newcastle.) A full-page illustration of one of Hemy’s works appears in the iconic reference by Denys Brook-Hart, “British 19th Century Marine Painting.”
This fine painting is typical of the artist’s work with its expansive view of the somewhat chaotic shipping activity around Newcastle, though it is larger than most. The combination of steam and sail ships in the gray-green waters is an indicator of the late-19th century time period. For perspective, contrast and balance, Hemy placed, as he often did, a pair of fishermen working out of their dory, the small and narrow boat on the right. The painting is signed on the lower left.
Hemy is known for his extensive use of broad brush strokes to depict not only the water and swells, but also the sky. This depiction of the mouth of the Tyne shows this intimate relationship between the elements of water and sky. I can attest that in this part of England, the sea really is this color, which he so faithfully rendered. The bright blue sky is filled with billowing clouds; a perfect day to capture the vibrant scene.
The painting is housed in its original Victorian 19th century gesso and gilded frame. This substantial frame has ribbon-like embellishments on its deeply molded edge, as well as shell motifs in each corner.
The condition of the painting is excellent. I have had it professionally cleaned. The frame is also in excellent condition.
It measures 39-3/4 inches wide by 29-1/2 inches high, including the frame.
Antique Shipping Scene on the Tyne River, by Bernard B. Hemy
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