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on 5 September 2010
Liking maritime paintings and prints of all types, and seeing that the two previous reviewers had given the book 5 stars, I purchased `Ships and Seascapes' by David Cordingly. I was pleased to find that many of the pictures in the book are less well known and were therefore new to me; the reason for this is interesting and explained in the preface. The text is generally informative, particularly the chapter on Prints and Processes which clearly explains the different methods used in the production of engravings, etchings, mezzotints, lithographs etc., although my personal preference would have been for more artwork and less text.

Unfortunately there is one major failing, which is that around half of the watercolour and oil paintings included in the book are reproduced in monochrome. This is unforgivable in an art book as it drains all life from the paintings, making it impossible to appreciate the true quality of the work. As an example, a watercolour by John Taylor, which depicts a tramp steamer anchored off a tropical port, looks distinctly as if the ship is actually grounded on the beach when reproduced in black and white.

If you have a particular interest in marine watercolours and prints then this book will be a worthwhile addition to your library. However, if you have a more general interest in maritime art then I would recommend you consider `The Art of Nautical Illustration' by Michael Leek, the 2006 edition of which is currently available on Amazon Marketplace for around £10. This book (mine is the paperback version) contains far more artwork than `Ships and Seascapes', and its larger format and smaller margins allow the reproductions to be correspondingly bigger. Crucially, all but one of the paintings are reproduced in full colour (the exception is a watercolour that has been badly faded by sunlight). Like `wraggmeister' I am a great admirer of Thomas Somerscales - this book depicts three of his paintings, including `Off Valparaiso', which is reproduced in large format across two pages and is surely one of his finest works.
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on 2 February 2010
Author David Cordingly was Keeper of Pictures at the world's foremost museum of the sea - the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, London. That this book is such a masterful introduction to maritime prints, drawings and watercolours is thus no surprise. This book is worth every penny.

Do "look inside" and you will see, inter alia, the list of contents and the index, so there is no need for me to go into detail here.

David Cordingly starts his preface with "A museum colleague once remarked to me that the problem with marine painting was that they all looked the same." The rest of the book dispels that view. He tells us first about the different styles of drawing and painting, prints and processes, etching and engraving, before describing the different type of ships, with one double-page drawing from af Chapman's "Architectura Navalis Mercatoria" (1768) illustrating twenty-four types of 18th-century sailing vessel. We are then told about the different schools of painters and the many different types of marine art, all with suitable illustrations.

As one would expect in a book about pictures, it is beautifully illustrated, most in full colour, with examples of almost every conceivable type of marine work. And, thankfully, whereas other books about the sea and ships, rivers and boats and naval warfare, tend to use the more famous works as illustrations, the pictures illustrated in this excellent book are less well-known, as are some of the artists themselves - but the big names are not omitted, of course. A number of the works illustrated have are complemented with an adjacent inset showing a detail of the work, enabling the reader to see intimate detail of the painter's hand - an excellent feature.

The nearest 'Blue Plaque' to my home is a tenth of a nautical mile away: it is to the engraver William Daniell and I was delighted to see that his aquatint "Lighthouse on the South Stack, Holyhead" is included; thus, my local blue plaque comes alive!

W L Wyllie's pencil drawing of Queen Victoria's funeral, with HM Yacht "Alberta" entering Portsmouth, is (not surprisingly) excellent. The Frenchman Marin-Marie's bodycolour of the steamer "Martinique" is in marked contrast just two pages on - glorious colour! John Worsley's dry point work "A steamship pitching in a squall" is stunning and I rather covet these three works: James McNeill Whistler's etching "Eagle Wharf", from 'The Thames Set', the little-known John Fraser's watercolour "The steamer Pickwick" and Charles Pears's gouache "Cargo steamer in a heavy sea". I look forward to seeing some of the originals, of course, and a visit to the National Maritime Museum in London will be worthwhile indeed, especially to see the original oil of "HMS Malaya" by Norman Wilkinson, sporting the dazzle camouflage paint scheme that the artist himself designed. It would have been helpful were the works illustrated dated; this is a common omission in art books and it is a mistake - is HMS Malaya at Gibraltar in the First World War or the Second World War?

I have to say that I do not understand what the sentence under the title "Index" - on page 158 - means: "References to an artist in the text precede those (in italics) to reproductions of the artists' work", as there is not one letter in italics in the index. What was intended becomes a little more clear when one finds that page numbers are not in order, e.g. "Daniell, William 30, 97, 46" and "Dixon, Charles 135, 51, 133" - the second numerical sequence should have been in italics and these are the pages on which appear illustrations. A disappointing, and initially confusing, editorial oversight in an otherwise ship-shape book - but a minor quibble.

This is a lovely book and a treat for anyone who loves the sea and ships. It should certainly inspire away days to maritime museums and galleries and will leave the visitor better informed about the marine pictures on display. Perhaps, when the reader has some spare cash, a purchase of an original work would be the ultimate indulgence - there's much to choose from at any time for, as the author says, "Every year several thousand marine paintings, drawings and prints pass through the sale rooms".
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on 7 June 2009
Some gang-buster cover art, and the format gave an initial clue when ordering, that this was not just an ordinary gloss over of marine pix and artists. As it says in the title an 'introduction', it really is that, touching all relevant facets of this field. I say this, having acquired several other favourite picture books on the subject that usually go into one or two aspects that interest them in great detail.

I was particularly taken with work examples shown from the better known artists and the discerning use of some surprising "new" ones not the usual chestnuts. Alongside are some remarkably good ones from lesser known but non the less deserving artists that provide an overall high standard and rich content in subject materiel. There is a lot to be said for this book as a purchase for anyone with the vaguest interest in ships and the sea.

Three items, I think, made the book made it all worthwhile for me. Burton Cull's painting of a tranquil, leisurely, 'Royal Sovereign entering Portland Harbour'. A favourite as I have been on the exact spot as the artists point of view and this was the first time I had seen the whole picture uncropped.
Another familiar locale, is featured in Frank Mason's 'Off Whitby' depicting a bustling, busy busy, Gaff rig schooner thrashing its way south through the North Sea.
The coup de grace however, is a superb thematic oil painting 'I will not abandon you' by Thomas Somerscales. One of his familiar Clipper-ship subjects is depicted with added poignancy, approaching 3 men in an open boat, as it hauls in sail under an ominous sky. If there is such a thing as an artist's masterpiece, this has to be one. Even Somerscales, on reading this, would probably agree, "he got it right with this one!"

The author too and his team, got it right with a loving treatment of this subject. The content and the presentation, make for an absolute delight! Some how, in my enthusiasm, I ended up with two copies and can enjoy the double pleasure of reading in stereo!
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