Maritime Art

The Society for Nautical Research helps to purchase important works of art for the National Maritime Museum. In the interwar years many private art collections were in danger of being sold abroad. Among them was the collection of over 11,000 maritime prints, drawings and paintings of the noted yachtsman and collector Arthur Macpherson. In 1927 the society launched a public appeal to raise the funds to acquire his collection. With the huge generosity of Sir James Caird the collection was purchased and formed one of the founding collections of the National Maritime Museum.

Macpherson had an encyclopedic attitude to art collecting and aimed to document every aspect of maritime history through pictures. The early Netherlandish paintings are particularly fine, including a late sixteenth-century allegory of the Ship of State and Abraham Storck’s ‘Shipping off Amsterdam’.

The surplus of the public appeal was used to create the Macpherson Collection Endowment Fund which continues to be used to assist the purchase of additional works of art for the museum. Among the works purchased are a large number of paintings, prints and drawings by the noted marine artist W. L. Wyllie and an album of drawings by Gabriel Bray from a voyage to Africa in 1775.

The following works of art are taken from the many hundreds acquired for the nation by the society. A new work will be published monthly.

Featured Piece: Sailors in a Shelter, RNAH Cholmondeley Castle (1940-1944)

By Rosemary Rutherford (1912-1972)

Rosemary Rutherford (1912–72) trained at the Slade School of Art and exhibited at the New English Art Club prior to the Second World War. When war broke out, aged, 27, she joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment of the Red Cross.

She performed a variety of jobs which included working as a nurse in the Royal Naval Hospitals at Chatham and Haslar (Gosport) and other Royal Naval auxiliary hospitals.

Keen to record her experience in an official capacity she obtained permission from the War Artists Advisory Committee and went on to create a stunning variety of images reflecting her wartime life.

This is a scene of sailors in a shelter at RNAH Cholmondeley Castle which was used as a naval auxiliary hospital as well as being the location of the troops belonging to the Czechoslovak government-in-exile. This was also where the Czech special forces that assassinated the high-ranking Nazi Reinhard Heydrich were trained.

The Society helped to purchase a number of Rutherford’s drawings that relate to the activities of doctors, nurses and orderlies, and convalescing sailors and officers.

Naval hospitals have a long history and the Society has published a number of articles on the subject in The Mariner’s Mirror including this article from 1936 on the early history of hospital ships…and this article from 2008 on the naval hospital at Minorca.