Currier & Ives and the Majesty of the Sea: Clipper Ships and Steamboats at the Michele & Donald D'Amour Museum of Fine Arts

Currier & Ives and the Majesty of the Sea: Clipper Ships and Steamboats

January 25, 2011–June 26, 2011 D'Amour Museum of Fine Arts » First Floor » Alpert Gallery of Currier & Ives

Michele & Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, Alpert Gallery of Currier & Ives, First Floor

This exhibition features 28 hand-colored 19th-century lithographs from the museum’s permanent collection, including images of majestic clipper ships, powerful steamboats and great maritime races.

Currier & Ives created many prints symbolizing American progress and prosperity. Many of their images portrayed the beauty and power of technological innovation, and clipper ships and steamboats incorporated both qualities. During the 1850s, when clipper ships were popular, Currier & Ives published over 75 images of the vessels. Several artists who worked for Currier & Ives specialized in maritime painting, including James Butterworth, Frances (Fannie) Flora Bond Palmer, and Charles Parsons.

Built largely to satisfy the urge for speed and without much concern for cargo capacity, the clipper ship had a celebrated but short-lived career.  It captivated America for only a few years as steamboats replaced wind-powered boats. Currier & Ives produced many images reflecting this new industrial trend. Steamboat races, boats on the Mississippi River and ship disasters were all popular themes. Soon public fascination with the steam locomotive led Currier & Ives to replace maritime imagery with prints of the iron horse.