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.
Anita Malfatti occupies a special place in the history of Brazilian art. She was the first Brazilian painter to introduce Modernism to Brazil. In a country so used to old forms of realistic art, she ushered in the brave new world of Expressionism, defined by Tate UK as “art in which the image of reality is distorted in order to make it expessive of the artist’s inner feelings or ideas”.
The Titan submersible that imploded on 18th June 2023, killing all five of its passengers, has led to voluminous talk about what exactly happened and why. While many of the published accounts are interesting, I wanted to get a different perspective on the mishap. And what better source for this than Frankie?
Art depicting mother and child is ubiquitous. Understandably so. Mothers should be praised and honoured for the many sacrifices they make for their children. Artworks with a father-and-child motif are much less common even though fathers often exert a great deal of influence on their offsprings. Indeed, the ones with the sea as backdrop are rare.
There is nothing beautiful about war. It is savage and nasty. For some reason, however, art depicting naval battles has a strong power to attract viewers. The chaotic scenes of smoke and fire as ships and men try to destroy each other are certainly dramatic. Some may even think them beautiful.
Their whistles have long fallen silent. The smokes from their funnels are no more. Yet, the charm of steamboats that inspired such wonderful songs as Steamboat Bill and Lazy ‘Sippi Steamer lives on in old postcards.
The United States ranked no. 11 in the 2022 UNCTAD table of countries with the largest fleets in terms of carrying capacity (deadweight tonnes). It was way below the top three fleet owners — Greece, China and Japan. Nonetheless, Americans can take pride in having an enviable maritime heritage and preserving and keeping it alive in their art, music and literature. That legacy is even embedded in the official seals of 13 states.
The following memoirs are recommended reading for anyone who loves nautical books. The narratives are engaging, and they open a window to the maritime past. To present-day readers, they also serve as reminders of the dangers and hardships as well as the joys and fulfillments of the seafaring life.
Bay or harbour? These two terms can be a source of confusion for writers and even for some mariners. Official names help to some extent — e.g., “New York Harbor” and “Manila Bay”. But one may well ask: what is the crucial difference between the two given that ships regularly come in and out of both places?
Forget the slogans and speeches. They tend to be hollow and even insincere, especially if they come from bureaucrats. On May Day (International Workers’ Day, 1st of May), let’s have some art to honour the maritime workers whose daily struggles and honest toil often go unnoticed.
19th-century models of steamboats are such a delight to look at. They may not have the elegant craftsmanship of present-day models. Some may not have been built to scale. Yet, they have a special charm that makes one feel that their makers loved boats and loved their art.
Incredibly plenty has been written about the sinking of the Titanic on 15th April 1912. So, rather than repeating the facts that most of the world already knows, I am sharing the following quotes from some of the people who were directly involved. One hundred and eleven years after the disaster, the words still reverberate.