South Street Seaport,
New York City, 40" x 30"
Tom volunteered on the Pioneer, the ship in the foreground, for 125 hours
to gain information to complete this work. The work started as a commission
from his sister and brother-in-law to paint two large 40" x 30"
works for their home. Tom decided to paint two water paintings, one of
New York Harbor and another of Cincinnati Harbor.
He was still living in his apartment on Christopher Street in Greenwich
Village when he started the work. He would comb the library for books
on the seaport. Day after day he would delve deeper and deeper into the
books that were not shelved in the public collection. He would have all
the various folios brought up from the stacks and page through them. Finally
he found an image to start from. It was a view of the southern pier of
the South Street Seaport taken from the tennis pier just south.
He bolstered the main photograph with many photographs of is own, ship
plans and first hand experience on the schooner "Pioneer."
In the photo that was the Pioneer, a 100 foot schooner and a Brigantine
tied up on the end of the pier at the South Street Seaport Museum in lower
For eighteen months, he learned about the South Street Seaport Museum.
The painting depicts the early days of the museum. The iron schooner "Pioneer"
in the foreground is part of the museum, regularly providing tours of
New York Harbor. The Seaport Museum has a large volunteer operation and
Tom volunteered for general duty on board the "Pioneer." In
1885 the Pioneer was the finest vessel available for collecting foundry
sand. She originally had one large mast for greater speed. The barkentine
in the background is the all wood "Regina Maris," built in the
1800's and now berthed in Greenport, Long Island. Her design followed
the clipper ships because she used a smaller crew and could sail closer
to the wind.
He used Canaletto and Jan Van der Heyden's style to guide his brush manner.
He wanted something free and easy but still detailed. He believed he could
achieve this by working with premixed color applied wet on wet.
In painting, Tom started with a fixed pencil sketch on the canvas. Next,
he painted the sky with slow drying oil because the buildings, bridges
and rigging had to be painted before the sky dried. The inspiration for
the people on the dock came from the many passengers who lined up to take
the three hour tour around the harbor aboard the Pioneer.
The work progressed by painting only the area he could finish in a day.
As a builder constructs in material, he constructed in color. Tom became
what he painted. He worked three to four hours on two square inches of
the 30" X 40" canvas everyday and finished in five months.
Click on thumbnails to see detail
Studies for the painting
Seaport Study II, 5-1/2" x 4", ink on velum, 1994
Seaport Study I, 6" x 4-1/4", watercolor on paper, 1994
Seaport Study III, 5-1/2" x 4", watercolor on paper, 1994