FREEPORT — Maritime historian Robert Lloyd Webb will present 19th century ship portraiture for the conclusion of the five-month discussion series based on the painting the Tam O’Shanter.

Webb, former curator of the Maine Maritime Museum, has studied thousands of paintings of merchant ships created for ship captains and owners from 1790-1965. His talk,  “Painted Ships on Painted Seas,” will be at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 17, at the Freeport Community Library.

“These paintings are ubiquitous,” Webb said in a press release. “They show up on the wall behind actors in motion pictures, and in advertising for furniture. Every maritime museum and many historical societies own them, and it seems like half the homes in New England are decorated with one. But only a few people know anything about their history, or the artists who created them.”

The Freeport Historical Society acquired the Tam O’Shanter from the Childs Gallery in Boston and, with the help of a grant from the Maine Humanities Council, was able to present the songs, stories and memoirs of the sailors and captains who traveled on 19th century cargo ships in a program called “Lessons from the Tam O’Shanter.”

The Tam O’Shanter was built by Enos Chandler Soule at the Soule Brothers shipyard in South Freeport. It was a cargo vessel that traveled to ports in San Francisco, Bombay and Hong Kong. It was painted by Pun Woo, a Hong Kong artist, in the 1880s. The painting came out of a private Massachusetts family collection where it had been kept since the 1950s.

According to Christina White, executive director of the historical society, the Portland Museum of Art owns a painting of the Tam O’Shanter and has agreed to make it available to the historical society for the presentation. The museum’s painting was created by English artist Charles Waldron who worked around Liverpool, and it is believed the ship was painted there. It is dated to the early 1880’s.

“We are thrilled to have both paintings of this one vessel present for the lecture,” White said.

Webb will present information on the paintings of ships in the 1800s and how they were used as documents, not art. The presentation will include examples of ship portraiture from the early 19th century in the Mediterranean to the 1960s in Japan.

Tickets are $5 each, and children under 10 years old are free. White said a donation of a canned good or packaged food item is suggested to support the Freeport Community Services Food Pantry.

For more information, call 865-3179.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or [email protected]


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