John Steven Dews (British, born 1949) '"A Gusty Nor' Wester" - Valkyrie III Racing Britannia and Ailsa for the Muir Memorial Challenge Cup on the Clyde - July 3rd 1895'
Lot 149* AR W
John Steven Dews
(British, born 1949)
'"A Gusty Nor' Wester" - Valkyrie III Racing Britannia and Ailsa for the Muir Memorial Challenge Cup on the Clyde - July 3rd 1895'
£30,000 - 50,000
US$ 48,000 - 80,000

Lot Details
John Steven Dews (British, born 1949)
'"A Gusty Nor' Wester" - Valkyrie III Racing Britannia and Ailsa for the Muir Memorial Challenge Cup on the Clyde - July 3rd 1895'
signed 'J. Steven Dews' (lower left) and inscribed with title (to stretcher verso)
oil on canvas
100 x 167cm (39 3/8 x 65 3/4in).

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE:
    Private collection, UK, acquired directly from the artist

    The New York Times describes the vessel in an article, 1895, entitled 'A Marvel In Light Airs'. The article covered Valkyrie's victory against the cutters Britannia and Ailsa on the fifty-mile course of the Royal Yacht Club at Hunter's Quay, Scotland, July 6th. It reads: "The Valkyrie carried her mighty spread of canvas well, and pointed somewhat higher than her competitors. She turned on her heel like a ballet dancer, quicker in stays than either the Britannia or Ailsa, which are swift in going about."

    The frame of the present lot has a one dollar Australian coin mounted on the rear, echoing the ancient Roman tradition of placing a coin under the mast of a ship towards the end of construction; for good luck.

    Born in Beverley, North Humberside in 1949, Steven Dews has risen from a boy who failed his art 'A' level and who was told that fame usually comes only after an artist has died, to become Britain's most sought-after living marine artist. His reputation is internationally recognised and his commissions will keep him busy for years to come.

    Dews first began drawing boats aged about 5 when he and his two brothers would visit their grandfather, who was then Assistant Dockmaster at the Hull Docks. The boys were brought up on a tradition of the sea, the family being able to trace their nautical connections back to the seventeenth century.

    When they grew up, his two brothers both followed seafaring careers but Dews, who had been turned down by various naval institutions, settled for Hull Regional College of Art where he graduated in Technical Graphics and Illustration. He moved back to his parents and borrowed a friend's derelict farmhouse on the northern banks of the Humber. Here, where the light, the skies and the atmosphere were perfect, he spent hours painting in a makeshift studio.

    By studying photographs, reference books, model ships and architectural drawings, especially noting the sea and sky in their various moods, Dews produced hundreds of pencil sketches graduating to accurate drawings incorporating measurements.

    In 1976, his first exhibition was mounted. Virtually the whole body of work was sold on the first night and seventeen commissions were received. The following year he had an exhibition in San Francisco which sold out to large critical acclaim and heralded a secure future for Dews as an artist. As a consequence of the number of commissions gained from this exhibition, much of the artist's work from this period was to cross the Atlantic.

    In the autumn of 1979, Dews accepted a commission from Amoco to execute twelve pictures for their 1980 calendar to reflect the development of the ocean-going vessel from Drake's Golden Hind to the present day.

    His pictures also formed a major one-man touring fund-raising exhibition opened by H.R.H. The Prince of Wales in support of the excavation of the site of the Mary Rose, Henry VIII's warship. The exhibition was scheduled for twenty-four destinations around the UK including The National Maritime Museum, London, and closed at Amoco's headquarters in Chicago.

    Further prestigious commissions followed, including 'The Norland Under Attack During the Falkland's Campaign', for North Sea Ferries and 'The Wrecking of The Star of Poland off the Coast of China' for the San Francisco Maritime Museum. In 1985, he was commissioned by the syndicate backing Britain's entry for the America's Cup in Perth, Australia, to execute two paintings to raise money for the challenge. In 1988, the Maritime Services Board of Australia commissioned him to paint 'The First Fleet's arrival in Botany Bay' and the 'Bicentennial Celebrations on Sydney Harbour' which involved two trips to Australia. BP Marine and The Woolwich Building Society commissioned works for their calendars, both to be made up solely from Dews' marine subjects.
    Between commissions there was an exhibition in Dubai and, back at home, an example of Dews' work was included in a major exhibition of marine art at the Ferens Art Gallery, Hull.

    In 1995, he was asked to produce a painting to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the formation of the New York Yacht Club and in 1996, he held a sell-out exhibition of paintings in Bermuda.

    As Dews' reputation blossomed, so did his lifelong affair with the sea. He was able to buy his first yacht and, when not painting the ocean, was out sailing on it. In his studio he concentrated on the meticulous detail essential for the accuracy and realism of his painting. Always demanding perfection from his work and never satisfied with what he produced, he developed techniques to help him. He would look at an unfinished work in a mirror to see the image afresh in reverse. "The trouble is", he comments wryly, "that the reverse image itself can become too familiar and the striving for this perfection can become obsessive". He cannot live with his own original paintings on the wall as he says the temptation to add to them is too great. "The day I produce a painting I think can't be improved, I will hang up my brushes", he says.

    He lives and loves the subject he paints, with much of his spare time spent sailing. "How is it possible to express the air and sea and sky without having experienced the elements, knowing how a ship works, pulled the ropes?" he asks. "There is no escape from reality on a boat", Dews says, "the sea is a great equalizer of all men".
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