The Art of the Ship Model, a comprehensive new exhibit opens with a members’ reception and lecture on Thursday, February 28 at 6:00 p.m. at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. The exhibit opens to the public on March 1.
Organized by R. Michael Wall, proprietor of the American Marine Model Gallery in Gloucester, Mass., and Judith Lund, former curator of the museum, the exhibit features a wide range of models selected to depict ensembles of New Bedford area yachting, American whaleboats, vintage half hulls, ethnological northwest (Arctic) small craft, and whaling vessels from the age of sail to modern catcher boats. Examples include early 19th century models selected from the collections of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, the Kendall Whaling Museum and some acquired on loan. Many of the models have not been seen in years.
A recognized authority, Wall has spent 35 years researching, assessing and brokering ship models. He brings a discerning eye to the exhibit, assembling a selection of works that demonstrate the artistry of the builders. At 7:00 p.m. he will give an illustrated talk titled The Art of the Ship Model: Collections of the Past, Present and Future in the Cook Memorial Theater, the opening lecture of the 2013 Sailors’ Series. The lecture and reception are free for members and $20 for non-members. Museum memberships are available at the door.
Sponsored by the Kenneth T. & Mildred S. Gammons Foundation, the exhibit will enable a retrospective evaluation of ship models: what they represent, their purpose, a chronological review of their naval architectural design, as well as the ethnology or cultural relationships they reveal.
Just as five marine painters can independently approach the subject of capturing a particular vessel’s characteristics via the craft of drawing and creative application of paint, so too could five different marine model artists provide their models with equivalent craft and unique artistry. Works by notable professional modelers such as Erik Ronnberg, Jr., Michael Costagliola, Roger Hambidge and many others will exemplify this creative aspect.
The show will guide the visitor through ways to look at ship models from this artistic perspective, as well as how to identify their merits in relationship to recognized standards of “museum quality” craftsmanship. Such standards are based upon a consensus of construction specifications developed by the Smithsonian Institution, The Mariners’ Museum, and Mystic Seaport Museum as published in 1980. This publication, titled “Ship Model Classification Guidelines,” provides both the model artist and the collector with ways to analyze such pieces. Additionally, the exhibit will discuss how some of the models were made, their research or lack thereof, their often creative presentation, all of which will convey a new sense of connoisseurship to the viewer.