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The golden age of sail and steam

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Scranton and Aquitania (Photograph by Nick Silk)

As idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean — Stephen Card’s marine paintings challenge this notion. His canvases of graceful sail, sedate steam and tenacious tugs seem to have motion.

Two years since his last solo exhibition Stephen Card has produced another fine body of work comprising more than 20 oils.

The artist, like many marine painters, has a special affinity with the sea. His evident affection for the subjects he paints is demonstrable and his style is exacting — both in technique and the historical accuracy demanded by the genre.

Service at sea is a trait shared by many renowned marine artists; you sense their work is sharper due to their observation from days at sea. Captain Card’s notes that accompany the show provide an inkling into the almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the ships and lines he paints.

HMS Pickle is a small painting with a big impact at the start of the exhibition. He paints it with relish (pun intended); the vessel is in full sail as she races to the British coastline carrying dispatches and first news of Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

It celebrates the fact that the ship — a Bermuda sloop — had been built here six years earlier. The island’s proud sail invention has endured from its 17th-century origin to the present day. Its rig — famed for its speed and nimble tacking ability — was born from the island’s unique sailing environment. Another small picture that has impact is Queen of the North Atlantic, as it cuts through an ocean swell. The sun illuminates the boat’s frothy white wake, and a deft foreground highlight adds balance to a dramatic piece.

The artist naturally turns to America’s Cup race history — as he did two years ago with his painting of the yacht America and the Cup’s inaugural race in 1851. America’s Cup, 1886 depicts the sixth race; Mayflower and its English challenger Galatea are shown approaching the starting line in Verrazano Narrows, New York.

He paints the RMS Queen of Bermuda in rough seas, and she is also portrayed during her wartime commission in the South Atlantic when she was HMS Queen of Bermuda — Britain’s largest armed merchant cruiser

Capt Card has the excellent ability to capture the spirit of the age of sail and steam, an era where ships of sail and steam possessed elegant unity of both form and function. He evokes an adventuring time where ships battle swollen seas or cruise sedately before endless horizons.

The picture of the ferry Scranton and the Cunarder RM Acquitania on the North River is an evocative scene of glassy water where the warm glow from cabin lights illuminate period vehicles on board. Smoke from stacks trail into an ethereal moonlit sky.

Capt Card excels in his pursuit of sail and steam on canvas.

•The show runs at Gallery One Seventeen until June 30

Shamrock III with Shamrock I (Photograph by Nick Silk)
Queen of the North Atlantic (Photograph by Nick Silk)
Andes (Photograph by Nick Silk)
America’s Cup 1886 (Photograph by Nick Silk)
HMS Pickle (Photograph by Nick Silk)