I purchased this and a second painting (of the SS Martha’s Vineyard) at an auction in New Hampshire, not knowing much about the late Capt. John J. Ivory who painted them, but just thinking they were great folk art ship paintings. The blue of that water gets me every time, and of course I love the tiny people! I’ve done some research since (and there is a bunch of text handwritten by Ivory on the back of this one, too), learning that Captain Ivory was quite a fixture and legend on Martha’s Vineyard, known for his seafaring tales (and his drinking!) as well as for his paintings, a number of which are held in the collections of the Vineyard Haven Library and Martha’s Vineyard Museum. [More about Ivory below]
This one, painted on plywood, is a terrific example, depicting the grand Governor Robie, a clipper ship (built in Bath, Maine) named after Frederick Robie, (governor of Maine from 1883 to 1887.) The Governor Robie was among the last of the sailing ships in the China trade, and on the reverse of the painting Ivory describes having sailed on it in 1892 to Hong Kong by way of Cape Horn, returning to New York by way of the Cape of Good Hope, with his text ending in “memories…JJ Ivory.” This seems both a quintessential and a prime example of his work, including for the (albeit a bit challenging to decipher) personal text on reverse, which includes a description of “the black lump” which is the volcanic St. Helena island, a favorite stopping place (1200 miles off the coast of Angola) for Vineyard whalers in the 19th century.
Dimensions: 27" l x 12 7/8" t. Very good condition, no issues. With a small hole at top center where Ivory must have nailed it down to deter burglars from stealing it! (see below)
About Captain Ivory, Chris Baer, writing for the MV Times in 2015: “What’s fairly certain is that he spent his youth aboard clipper ships plying international waters, and spent time living in China and Japan. He settled in Oak Bluffs in the early 1900s, starting a family and working odd jobs as a mechanic and hotel cook before embarking on a second far-flung career as a merchant mariner. Returning to the Vineyard in the 1930s, he turned to painting, and to drink. A kindly man who welcomed visitors to his little vessel-home on the beach, his good nature was sometimes taken advantage of by tourists and collectors, who would buy his paintings for next to nothing. Some of his paintings show nail holes, it’s remembered, from affixing his work to the underside of a table to deter burglars while he was away from his unlocked boat home. He painted on anything and everything — cardboard, linoleum, plywood, canvas, and scraps that people would bring him.”