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» Marine » All » Silk Embroidered Seascape by Thomas Willis, circa 1880

Silk Embroidered Seascape by Thomas Willis, circa 1880

Price: $4,200.00

Silk mounted and embroidered portrait of a Schooner-Rigged Yacht, hand tied onto an oil on canvas Seascape, by Thomas Willis (Danish-American: circa 1850-1925), circa 1880, featuring a topsail schooner closed hauled on starboard tack under full sail, with American ensign flying off the Main gaff, and owner's burgees flying off Fore and Main peaks. The silk sails are shaped by cardboard backing; the velvet hull, and silk sails, spars and rigging are all embroidered through and hand tied on the rear of the canvas, which bears a very well painted seascape with combing waves, a steamship and two other sails visible in the background. These smaller scale works by Willis are less often seen than his larger pieces, and are usually thought to be a finer and more intimate showcase of his talents. This one features particularly nice lines and an attractive background. Silk is degraded with exposure to sunlight, so Willis embroideries too often exhibit significant damage; it is a relief to see this one with only one or two lines of rigging parted. It appears likely that this piece has never been opened or removed from its original frame. While his work is well known, the circumstances of the artist himself are not widely known. Although currently listed as having been born in Connecticut, there is ample evidence that he was born in Denmark and emigrated to CT as a young man. There are pervasive rumor that he lived and worked in New York City for a silk importer or a manufacturer of embroidery thread, which lead to his unique art form; however, his style and technique was fully developed while still living in Europe. Rumors aside, it is well documented that he worked prolifically creating portraits of yachts and steamers on commission for members of the American, New York and Corinthian Yacht Clubs, as well as others. His earliest work tended to be on plain colored silk backgrounds; soon his work featured oil painting on canvas backgrounds, thought to originally have been done for him by friends such as the renown marine artist Antonio Jacobsen (who shared many of the same clients). It is believed that these artists taught Willis how to paint for himself, eventually becoming quite adept. As such, the painted backgrounds on Willis' work can vary from the still somewhat amateurish to the frankly sublime. Willis was somewhat haphazard in signing his work: some are signed by name in lower corner, some by initials only, some are signed on the reverse only, some bear paper labels on the reverse with name and a caution to keep out of direct sunlight, and many are not signed at all. He was however the only artist working in this unique medium and style, and his art is unmistakable and irrefutable. Measures: 15 in H x 21.25 in W.

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