Braving the waves: Pilot boats of yore in splendid art

by | Jul 23, 2023 | Maritime Art, Culture and History, Maritime Workers

Paintings of the pilot boats of yesteryear can be a great visual delight. The grace and energy of these small sailing vessels as they brave the waves make one think of a ballet at sea. Such artworks, however, are also a reminder of the challenges and dangers faced by maritime pilots even today as they perform their duties.

The following are some of the best artworks that deal with the subject. Click on the images to magnify them.

You know, our life is arduous, responsible, and hazardous. People on shore, I am sorry to say, very seldom recognise this.

— Thomas Roads, as quoted in “Pilots” by Alfred T. Story, The Strand Magazine (1894)

The pilot boat, no date
Oil on canvas
Montague Dawson (British, 1895-1973)
Image from Christie’s

Follow the leader, 1900
Oil on canvas
Isaac Joseph Witham (British, 1832–1901)
Photo credit: Merseyside Maritime Museum
Courtesy of Art UK
Licence: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Dover pilot boat off the North Foreland, 1864
Edward William Cooke (British, 1811-1880)
Courtesy of Bohnhams auction house

The pilot cutter ‘Fox’ and a quarantine hulk off Binstead, 1865
Oil on canvas
Arthur Wellington Fowles (British, 1815–1883)
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (sourced from Royal Museums Greenwich)

The Cromer pilot cutter No. 2 running out to meet the new arrival (no date)
Pencil and watercolour
Thomas Sewell Robins (British, c.1809-1880)
Courtesy of Christie’s

Pilot Boat in Heavy Sea , 1882
Oil on canvas
Carl Wilhelm Barth (Norwegian, 1847-1919)
Courtesy of Nasjonalmuseet, Oslo
Licence: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

A special mug
for intrepid pilots

Available only from
The Marine Café Shop on Etsy!


Click here for details.



~ Barista Uno

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