The son of Indiana parents transplanted to Manhattan, VICTOR MAYS was born in 1927. Raised in Bronxville, NY, during the 1930s, he vividly recalls square-rigged, rust-streaked grain ships sailing up Long Island Sound, weathered schooners still working the coast, and the thrill of driving past rows of magnificent Atlantic liners at their Hudson River piers. His interest in both the sea and drawing began at an early age.
He enlisted in the United States Navy in the latter month of World War II and was commissioned upon graduation from Yale after the war. While at Yale, he took several art electives, and after college wrote and illustrated Fast Iron, a sea novel for young people which won the Boys Club of America Gold Medal. Continuing a career as writer and free-lance illustrator of magazines and books with a parallel career as a Naval Intelligence officer on both active and reserve service, he settled in coastal Connecticut with his wife and their three children who were introduced to the sea in their family sailing dory.
In 1978 he retired from naval reserve as a captain, and at the same time discontinued book illustration, devoting full time to historically oriented marine watercolors, the subject and medium he most enjoys. He concentrates on the humbler examples of working sail of the 19th and early 20th centuries, favoring stone stoops, oyster carriers, and coal and lumber schooners over the more elegant clippers.
Almost as enjoyable as the shipping, he finds, are the ports and docks of past years, which often appear in his paintings. His subjects and backgrounds are inspired by a wide variety of source materials collected over the years, augmented by specific research at maritime museums, libraries, and historical societies.
Many of his earlier illustrations are in the permanent collections of the University of Minnesota and the University of South Mississippi. His marine paintings have twice received Best-in-Show awards and six Awards of Excellence at the Maritime Gallery at Mystic Seaport’s International Exhibitions and the Rudolph J. Schaefer Maritime Heritage Award, 2012. His work is in the collections of the Peabody Museum of Salem, the Mystic Seaport Museum, and the Submarine Force Museum. He is a Fellow Emeritus of The American Society of Marine Artists (ASMA).