Treasures from the Collections

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Chinese Robe, Manchu Dynasty 1958.646

Chinese Robe, Manchu Dynasty, 1958.646

Take an in-depth look at some of the finest artifacts drawn from the collections of Mystic Seaport. For more than 80 years, the Museum has developed collections vast in depth and scope and known worldwide for their documentary and research value. Less widely recognized but no less significant are the artistic treasures among the Museum’s extensive holdings. These objects of creative expression – inspired by the power, mystery, dangers, beauty, solitude, and resources of the sea – merge impressive artistic skill with maritime content to reveal the broad influence of the sea on American life.

Visitors will immediately notice something very different about this exhibit. Rather than presenting objects and images based on their connection to unifying stories, themes, and ideas, “Treasures from the Collections” breaks new ground by presenting objects selected primarily for their artistic and aesthetic merit.

Selected by a team of knowledgeable and experienced curators, these maritime treasures are featured in the book, America and the Sea, Treasures from the Collections of Mystic Seaport. Supported by the Henry Luce Foundation, this recent publication is the catalog and guide for the exhibit.

Oil Painting, "Ship in a Gale" by James E. Buttersworth 1949.3176

Oil Painting, “Ship in a Gale” by James E. Buttersworth 1949.3176

Ship models, scrimshaw, ship plans, and figureheads are all included in this stunning display of work by preeminent artists and artisans. Exhibited paintings will range from majestic ship portraits produced in oil and watercolor to powerful scenes depicting sailing ships tossed like toy boats on storm-churned seas. A select group of photographs, generally included in exhibits as reproductions, will be displayed in their original form, including rare 150-year-old examples in ornate cases with polished brass mattes.

New Bedford Whaleman Isaac Bliss, 1997.90.2.

New Bedford Whaleman Isaac Bliss, 1997.90.2

The artists who created these treasures range from formally trained painters and photographers to whalemen and sailors whose creations often depict the world they knew well. Some of the artists are famous while many are unknown. Together they produced a body of work that reveals a remarkable intellectual, emotional, and even spiritual response to the maritime world and to the maritime traditions that lie so deeply embedded in our culture.

From sailors’ handiwork fashioned at sea to maritime painters’ oil masterpieces, the works in the show illuminate our enduring connection to the water. The history of America has been shaped by the sea, the inland waterways, and our relationship to them. This exhibit tells these stories and more, through the world-renowned collections of Mystic Seaport.