Monday, October 23, 2017

Painting Newport's Shipyards

Thomas C. Skinner (American, 1888-1945) painted the worker's world of shipbuilding.

A couple of weeks ago, when I visited the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Virginia, Jeanne Willoz-Egnor, Director of Collections Management, took me behind the scenes to see some of Skinner's paintings. This giant oil shows the workings of the forge hammer shop.

According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, December 19, 1948: "Shortly after the Mariners’ Museum was founded in 1930, Mr. Skinner was appointed its staff artist. By a happy stroke of fortune he was assigned studio space in the heart of the shipyard where he could paint from life all phases of modern steel shipbuilding." 

"His studio did not possess the conventional quite decorum. Riveting hammers provided a continuous tattoo, and his floor shook with the vibration of heavy machinery."

Thomas C. Skinner, preliminary study, courtesy Mariners' Museum
"But he learned in a matter of moments to set up his easel and start sketching a damaged tanker being warped into a big drydock. The result has been that his unposed paintings are bold, colorful, and almost noisily true to life."

This 1933 gouache shows the Mallory Line freighter Mallemak in dry dock, getting a paint job. 

In the shipyard's heavy machine shop, he depicts the special tools used to refine the shapes of the forgings and castings.

The expressed intent of his project was "to promote prosperity during the Great Depression and celebrate America's industrial might."
Read more
Shipbuilders' art, painter's art meet
Main page for Mariners' Museum 
This is their page on Thomas C. Skinner 
Thanks, Jeanne.


Steve said...

In the paintings you've given us, I love how much Skinner has done with primaries; red, yellow, and blue. Simple and powerful. I'd like to get to the Mariners Museum someday. They have a collection of remarkable models of birchbark canoes made by Edwin Tappan Adney.

James Gurney said...

Steve, yes, we got to see some of those canoe models. Jeanne told us that he learned the art of canoe building from the Native Americans and then instead of writing a book about it, he made exquisite models. Boatbuilders come from all over to study them.

scottT said...

That's a great museum. I've been fortunate to visit it a couple of times. James, I understand they have a painting of yours, but somehow I managed to miss it. The last time there was an astounding collection of handmade wooden model sailing ships. Incredible detail. I look forward to the day the remnants of the Monitor can be displayed.

Jared Cullum said...

Cool! I'll have to go visit. I've never been to that museum.