The Art of Rowing: Celebrating Plying the Oar

“Eastern Sprints” (oil 18 x 36) by Harley Bartlett is one of the paintings in the Maritime Gallery show “The Art of Rowing” at Mystic Seaport. Courtesy of the Maritime Gallery at Mystic Seaport.

11 July 2017

HTBS editor Göran R Buckhorn caught up with Monique Foster, director of the Maritime Gallery at Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut, to ask her some questions about the upcoming exhibition and sale called “The Art of Rowing”, which runs from 29 July to 17 September 2017.

 For more than 35 years, the Maritime Gallery at Mystic Seaport has displayed the works of leading maritime artists from across the globe. The gallery specialises in contemporary maritime art and ship models, and art lovers and collectors from around the world have for many years found art pieces from the gallery to decorate their homes. Every purchase of artwork supports the maritime preservation work at Mystic Seaport, the largest maritime museum in America. The Maritime Gallery, which is located opposite the museum’s south entrance, adjacent to the Mystic Seaport gift shop, offers several art shows a year.

The Maritime Gallery at Mystic Seaport. Photo: Göran R Buckhorn.

Monique Foster, who spent 20 years working at Christie’s auction house in New York and is the former director of Leigh Keno Fine Antiques, also in New York, has been the director of the Maritime Gallery since 2015. During Foster’s two years as director of the gallery, she has come up with fresh ideas, taking the exhibits in new directions. In 2016, the Maritime Gallery showed “Photographs of the Sea” by Michael Kahn, the first photograph exhibit in a very long time at the gallery. Last February, Foster opened up space to the clubs at two of the local high schools to display the students’ work in photography and ceramic – a popular event, which was appreciated by the young photographers and ceramists, and enjoyed by the public.

Foster’s office is on the second floor of the Maritime Gallery. It is a sun-lit room over-looking the beautiful, historic Mystic River and it must be the office with the best view at the entire museum. Small boats are either rowed or sailed up and down the river during the summer. In spring and autumn, the rowing team of Stonington High School also practices there. This might have been one of the things that inspired Foster for the upcoming exhibition and sale, “The Art of Rowing”, which starts on 29 July.

Director of the Maritime Gallery at Mystic Seaport Monique Foster. Photo: Göran R Buckhorn.

When asked how she came up with the idea for this exhibit, Foster said: ‘Given the large number of rowing devo­tees in New England and the museum’s past support of rowing, when the National Rowing Foundation’s National Rowing Hall was located here between 2008 and 2014, it was a natural decision to have a show at the Maritime Gallery dedicated to this water activity.’ She added: ‘This year also marks the 165th anniversary of Amer­ica’s oldest collegiate athletic competition: the Harvard-Yale Regatta, which took place for the first time in 1852 and is now rowed on the Thames River in New London, close to Mystic.’

So does Foster have a background in rowing?

‘No,’ she said, ‘but I grew up on the Charles River, opposite Harvard’s Boathouse.’

“Afternoon Workout on the Charles” (oil 18 x 14) by Leonard Mizerek. Courtesy of the Maritime Gallery at Mystic Seaport.

Approximately 30 artists, including five women, will have around 40 artworks on exhibit in “The Art of Rowing”. ‘They are all paintings, except one piece,’ Foster remarked, ‘a wood sculpture by artist Robert Lagasse which depicts a sculler cutting through the water.’

Artist Robert Lagasse’s beautiful wood sculpture of a sculler in a single scull, (size 20 x 13 x 5). Photo courtesy of Robert Lagasse.

In a description of his sculpture, Lagasse writes that ‘this piece attempts to depict the relationship between humanity and nature in this demanding sport. The base is shaped from ipe, sometimes known as Brazilian Walnut. The oily wood is heavy and was a section of a destroyed dock found on the bottom of Long Island Sound after a hurricane. The piece is finished with numerous coats of hand-rubbed tung oil.’

“The Art of Rowing” is not only an exhibit, the works on display are also for sale. Are they expensive?, I asked Foster. ‘I believe many of the pieces in this show are very affordable,’ she answered with a smile.

It is essential to point out that the show is not only on the sport of rowing, there are also paintings showing other activities at the oar, for example, a man rowing on the Ganges by Lisa Egeli and gondolas in Venice by Peter Arguimbau.

“Namaste” (oil 30 x 40) by Lisa Egeli. Courtesy of the Maritime Gallery at Mystic Seaport.

‘This painting has been in the works for many years, inspired by a month of traveling around India,’ artist Lisa Egeli said in a comment. ‘This is an oarsman on the Ganges River in Varanasi, India. I did some watercolor sketching in the boat and then I did a number of studies over the years while I couldn’t get this scene out of my head. The Ganges is a holy river, a source of solace, a final resting place, a beautiful escape, a place of commerce and tourism – it’s many things to many people.’

“Gondoliers in Front of Danieli, Venice” (oil 20 x 30) by Peter Arguimbau. Courtesy of the Maritime Gallery at Mystic Seaport.

‘I’m very excited about this show,’ Foster said, ‘I’m look forward to welcoming gallery patrons, art collectors and rowing enthusiasts to this special-themed exhibition.’

There will be an opening reception to the public on Saturday, 29 July, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. RSVP to the reception is appreciated by 21 July. Contact the gallery at 860.572.5388 or by e-mail gallery@mysticseaport.org

The Maritime Gallery is open daily between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. and admission is free.

Parallel with “The Art of Rowing”, another show is running at the Maritime Gallery: “The Plein Air Painters of the Maritime Gallery at Mystic Seaport Exhibition and Sale”. Both shows will close on 17 September, which is the same day as the museum’s annual rowing event, Coastweeks Regatta.

Here is the contact information for the gallery if you have any questions:

The Maritime Gallery at Mystic Seaport
47 Greenmanville Avenue, Mystic,
Connecticut 06355-0990, USA
INT+1-860-572-5388 or gallery@mysticseaport.org 

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