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Catalog entry

inv. 36
Lumber Brig in High Seas
Brigantine Under Heavy Weather, Clipper Ship in High Seas
n.d.
Oil on canvas
10 1/8 x 16 in. (25.7 x 40.6 cm)
No inscription found
On view at the Cape Ann Museum

Commentary

Lane’s obvious love of sailing ships of all kinds is a constant across all his work. No matter how humble a ship may be—whether large or small, new or old—its essence is captured. Lane shows them all as vital, dignified beings, somehow alive in their miraculous interaction with sea and wind. Nowhere is this more evident than in this humble painting of an old lumber schooner straining through a high sea. 

One imagines that Lane had just as much admiration and affinity for this vessel as for the elegant clippers he painted on commission. Coming from Gloucester—not a prosperous port in Lane’s day—he knew this to be what boats were: humble, somewhat ungainly, but true and solid. They needed to be if they were to survive the years at sea for which they were destined.

This hermaphrodite brig is an everyday boat, old and tired, with sails patched from years of use. She is probably coming from Penobscot Bay in Maine or down the coast from Canada, and she hauls a load of lumber—a commodity always saleable, though barely profitable. She makes no glamorous trips to foreign ports or to high-stakes fishing on the Grand Banks. Her lot is just banging up and down the coast year after year until she finally finds a reef or her seams split and she is grounded on a sand bar somewhere and left to rot.

There were thousands of vessels like this built in Lane’s era and beyond; coasters like this continued plying their trade in Maine right up into the 1920s. Such a ship was the equivalent of today's local delivery truck. 

Lumber Brig in High Seas is quite small (10 x 16 inches), unsigned and undated, yet unmistakably Lane in every element. Note the detailed rigging, impeccably drawn and always accurate—a ship could not sail without every piece of rigging in its proper place. The sails show all their weight and age, patches included. The sea is foaming white as the waves churn around the bow; the wave shadows in the foreground set up the dramatic dark-and-light contrast so central to Lane’s work.

Who could this work have been painted for? Certainly not for some wealthy ship's owner or captain with a name and a reputation to burnish. This ship has no name evident, no flags, no figurehead; she’s just another anonymous working vessel. Yet for all the mundanity of her role, she is in the midst of high drama and risk. The men on board are using all their skill and daring to bring the ship and crew safely through, though that can never be guaranteed. When she gets to port there will be no celebrations, no congratulatory meetings on the dock—just another unloading and loading, and back up the coast she goes.

– Sam Holdsworth

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Subject Types:   Marine Scene »
Seasons / Weather:   Rough Seas »
Vessel Types:   Brig »   //   Brig (Half) »

Historical Materials
Below is historical information related to the Lane work above. To see complete information on a subject on the Historical Materials page, click on the subject name (in bold and underlined).

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artwork
Lumber Brig in High Seas
Fitz Henry Lane
n.d.
Oil on canvas
10 1/8 x 16 in.
Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Mass., Gift of the Estate of Anne K. Garland, 1990 (2676.00)

Detail of lumber brig.

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In general, brigs were small to medium size merchant vessels, generally ranging between 80 and 120 feet in hull length. Their hull forms ranged from sharp-ended (for greater speed; see Brig "Antelope" in Boston Harbor, 1863 (inv. 43)) to “kettle-bottom” (a contemporary term for full-ended with wide hull bottom for maximum cargo capacity; see Ships in Ice off Ten Pound Island, Gloucester, 1850s (inv. 44) and Boston Harbor, c.1850 (inv. 48)). The former were widely used in the packet trade (coastwise or transoceanic); the latter were bulk-carriers designed for long passages on regular routes. (1) This rig was favored by Gloucester merchants in the Surinam Trade, which led to vessels so-rigged being referred to by recent historians as Surinam brigs (see Brig "Cadet" in Gloucester Harbor, late 1840s (inv. 13) and Gloucester Harbor, c.1852 (inv. 563)). (2)

Brigs are two-masted square-rigged vessels which fall into three categories:

Full-rigged brigs—simply called brigs—were fully square-rigged on both masts. A sub-type—called a snow—had a trysail mast on the aft side of the lower main mast, on which the spanker, with its gaff and boom, was set. (3)

Brigantines were square-rigged on the fore mast, but set only square topsails on the main mast. This type was rarely seen in America in Lane’s time, but was still used for some naval vessels and European merchant vessels. The term is commonly misapplied to hermaphrodite brigs. (4)

Hermaphrodite brigs—more commonly called half-brigs by American seamen and merchants—were square-rigged only on the fore mast, the main mast being rigged with a spanker and a gaff-topsail. Staysails were often set between the fore and main masts, there being no gaff-rigged sail on the fore mast.

– Erik Ronnberg

References:

1. Howard I. Chapelle, The National Watercraft Collection (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1960), 64–68.

2. Alfred Mansfield Brooks, Gloucester Recollected: A Familiar History (Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1974), 62–74. A candid and witty view of Gloucester’s Surinam Trade, which employed brigs and barks.

3. R[ichard] H[enry] Dana, Jr., The Seaman's Friend (Boston: Thomas Groom & Co., 1841. 13th ed., 1873), 100 and Plate 4 and captions; and M.H. Parry, et al., Aak to Zumbra: A Dictionary of the World's Watercraft (Newport News, VA: The Mariners’ Museum, 2000), 95.

4. Parry, 95, see Definition 1.

artwork
Brig "Cadet" in Gloucester Harbor
Fitz Henry Lane
late 1840s
Oil on canvas
17 1/4 x 25 3/4 in.
Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Mass., Gift of Isabel Babson Lane, 1946 (1147.a)
Photo: Cape Ann Museum

Detail of brig "Cadet."

Also filed under: "Cadet" (Brig) »

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chart
Chart showing the voyage of the brig Cadet
c.1980
Painting on board
72 x 48 in.
Collection of Erik Ronnberg

Chart showing the voyage of the brig Cadet to Surinam and return, March 10–June 11, 1840.

Image: Erik Ronnberg

Also filed under: "Cadet" (Brig) »   //  Surinam Trade »

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illustration
Full-rigged Brig
Engraving in R. H. Dana, The Seaman's Friend, 13th ed. (Thomas Groom & Co. Publisher, 1873)

Detail of a full-rigged brig is square-rigged at both her masts. 

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artwork
Silhouettes of vessel types
Charles G. Davis
Book illustrations from "Shipping and Craft in Silhouette" by Charles G. Davis, Salem, Mass. Marine Research Society, 1929. Selected images
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Hermaphrodite brigs—more commonly called half-brigs by American seamen and merchants—were square-rigged only on the fore mast, the main mast being rigged with a spanker and a gaff-topsail. Staysails were often set between the fore and main masts, there being no gaff-rigged sail on the fore mast. (1)

The half-brig was the most common brig type used in the coasting trade and appears often in Lane’s coastal and harbor scenes. The type was further identified by the cargo it carried, if it was conspicuously limited to a specialized trade. Lumber brigs (see Shipping in Down East Waters, 1854 (inv. 212) and View of Southwest Harbor, Maine: Entrance to Somes Sound, 1852 (not published)) and hay brigs (see Lighthouse at Camden, Maine, 1851 (inv. 320)) were recognizable by their conspicuous deck loads. Whaling brigs were easily distinguished by their whaleboats carried on side davits (see Ships in the Harbor (not published)). (2)

 – Erik Ronnberg

References:

1. M.H. Parry, et al., Aaak to Zumbra: A Dictionary of the World's Watercraft Newport News, VA: The Mariners’ Museum, 2000), 268, 274; and A Naval Encyclopaedia (L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1884. Reprint: Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1971), 93, under "Brig-schooner."

2. W.H. Bunting, An Eye for the Coast (Gardiner, ME: Tilbury House: 1998), 52–54, 68–69; and W.H. Bunting, A Day's Work, part 1 (Gardiner, ME: Tilbury House: 1997), 52.

Related tables: Brig »
photo (historical)
Canadian Brig "Ohio" in East Gloucester
c.1910
Photograph

Canadian brig "Ohio" iced in off Reed & Gamage Wharf, East Gloucester.

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photo (historical)
A half brig being towed to the Bay in New York Harbor
George Stacy
1859–60
Photograph
Johnson, H. and Lightfoot, F.S.: Maritime New York in Nineteenth-Century Photographs, Dover Publications, Inc., New York
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illustration
Hermaphrodite Brig
Engraving in R. H. Dana, The Seaman's Friend, 13th ed. (Thomas Groom & Co. Publisher, 1873)

An hermaphrodite brig is square-rigged at her foremast; but has no top, and only fore-and-aft sails at her main mast.

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artwork
Lumber Brig in High Seas
Fitz Henry Lane
n.d.
Oil on canvas
10 1/8 x 16 in.
Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Mass., Gift of the Estate of Anne K. Garland, 1990 (2676.00)

Detail of lumber brig.

[+]
artwork
Silhouettes of vessel types
Charles G. Davis
Book illustrations from "Shipping and Craft in Silhouette" by Charles G. Davis, Salem, Mass. Marine Research Society, 1929. Selected images
[+]
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The timber trade played an important role in New England’s economy from Colonial days through the mid-19th century, supplying the vast quantities of lumber which a rapidly growing nation demanded.  While Cape Ann’s woodlands were depleted early on, timber continued to be harvested from northern New England and the Maritime Provinces right up to the Civil War.

With a deep and safe harbor, Gloucester often served as a layover spot where vessels bound from Maine to Boston, New York or Baltimore and heavily laden with lumber could ride out bad weather.  Because of this, Fitz Henry Lane’s paintings of Gloucester Harbor often show a schooner or a brig, loads of lumber clearly visible on their decks, sheltering along the Western Shore.

References:

Honey, Mark E., "King Pine, Queen Spruce, Jack Tar," An Intimate History of Lumbering on the Union River, Volumes 1-5. This source, in its entirety, lays down the foundation of Downeast Maine's unique culture which was built upon pine lumber and timber, the cod fisheries, coasting, shipbuilding, and the interrelationships of family and community.

Lumber schooner in Gloucester Harbor
1852
Photograph
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Bangor Log Raft
Advertisement for The Bangor News Company, est. January 31, 1881
Castine Historical Society Collections (2008.02)

Also filed under: Historic Photographs »

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PDF
view ]
publication
Maine Register for 1855 (Lumber)
George Adams, publisher
"The Maine Register for the Year 1855, embracing State and County Officers, and an abstract of the law and resolves; together with a complete business directory of the state, and a variety of useful information."

Details about Maine's lumber trade in 1855, see pp. 250–52

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Exhibition History

No known exhibitions.

Published References

No known published references.

Related historical materials

Vessel Types
Maritime & Other Industries & Facilities
Citation: "Lumber Brig in High Seas, n.d. (inv. 36)." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum. http://fitzhenrylaneonline.org/catalog/entry.php?id=36 (accessed October 20, 2019).
Record last updated November 17, 2015. Please note that the information on this and all pages is periodically reviewed and subject to change.
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