Älskade skepp – ship portraits in focus at the Maritime

By on February 23, 2017

On 24 February opens Älskade skepp at the Maritime Museum. A large number of ship portraits from the collections reflects the 1800s development in shipping, trade, technology and a rarely lifted painting genre. The exhibition also shows the portraits and commercial importance. The paintings signals belonging and are carriers of stories about life at sea. There are pictures to remember, images of something loved.

Check in your photo album, your phone or your feed in social media. We want to depict and show what is important for us. In the sailor home was the ship on the wall a hallmark of identity and something that kept stories about travel, adventure, danger and other places, says Malin Jogmark exhibition producer at the Maritime Museum.

Ship Portrait, sometimes called Captain paintings, became more common during the 1800s until the breakthrough of photography. They were painted on the order of any crew member. The artist had to work fast but detailed to render the ship, which was in port but on the painting often placed out by the sea.

This type of portrait is among the most common items on maritime museums around the world, which probably helps that they do not draw attention to so often. Therefore, we are delighted that we can now open an exhibition dedicated to these paintings and see a key part of our collections, says Hans-Lennart Ohlsson, museum director at the Maritime Museum.

The detailed paintings originated in religious thanksgiving motifs that were common in Catholic countries around the Mediterranean. The tradition of painting ship portraits and techniques and styles for that spread across oceans and painters sought out to the ports. Quick worked materials like watercolor or gouache on paper, sometimes with contours in ink characteristic. The artists behind the early works are often unknown and, among the latter, there were few who had the training. Some had been at sea themselves, which can be sensed in the detail which requires knowledge of ships’ parts and function. One of Sweden’s most famous port painter Lars Petter Sjöström, harbourmaster in Malmö. Some portraits have also been painted by skilled artists Johan Christian Berger and Anna Palm De Rosa.

We have over 400 ship portraits in the collection so the selection was a challenge. But the 70 paintings that now hang in the exhibition represent the genre and time period well, even if not everything is there. Additional paintings can take part of in the slide show in the exhibition and in addition there is the entire collection available via the Digital Museum, says Ingrid Ulfstedt, curator at the Maritime Museum.

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