BIW artist James Stilphen created this artwork for the transfer of a BIW-built frigate to Turkish Navy, shown at Istanbul, in 1997. Photo courtesy of the Maine Maritime Museum

The Maine Maritime Museum in Bath will offer a lecture Thursday about the art of James Stilphen, the late art director and technical illustrator at Bath Iron Works.

Stilphin’s art, which he created for BIW in the 1980s and 1990s, tells the story of the BIW’s advancements in shipbuilding and what it offered the U.S. Navy.

Interim Executive Director Chris Timm, who will give the lecture, said Stilphen’s art likely will be familiar to Bath residents, as his maritime-themed murals can be found around the city. One is in the Bath post office and others can be found in the breezeway that connects the downtown municipal parking lot to Front Street.

Timm said the museum has over 275 of his drawings, paintings and technical illustrations, but this is the first time a handful will be shown to the public since Stilphen’s death in 2006.

“It’s a hidden treasure we have here in the museum,” said Timm.

The art Stilphen produced for BIW included promotional materials and concept art of warships designed to help the company win contracts, commemorative memorabilia, and even internal company materials like employee appreciation items.


Conceptual view of Bath Iron Works in 1997 by James Stilphen. Photo courtesy of the Maine Maritime Museum

“Despite being born in Bath and living his life mostly in Bath, his work had a global scope,” said Timm. “We always talk about how ships from here go around the globe, well it was the same for his art. He produced things for a global audience.”

Stilphen’s tenure at BIW also aligned with the creation and evolution of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer in the 1980s, which is now the only type of ship BIW builds. His work also captured advancements in the shipyard itself, said Timm.

“For the Bath community and BIW, the Arleigh Burke is so iconic and important because Bath is one of only two shipyards who build it and it it’s such a mainstay in the Navy, so there’s a huge amount of pride for that class of vessel,” said Timm. “We also have three or four aerial views of Bath Iron Works that he drew that show the operations of the shipyard at that time. You can tell they come from different eras and can see evolution too.”

No matter what he created, Timm said Stilphen’s art shows his love for Bath and its long shipbuilding history.

BIW artist James Stilphen created this program artwork for the launch of USS Mahan in 1996. Photo courtesy of the Maine Maritime Museum

“Even in some of his concept art for what BIW could look like in the future, he had such an affection for Bath’s history as well,” said Timm. “In some of these highly detailed paintings, we can find small details like a steam vessel from Bath’s past tucked away in the image. There was a fondness for the history of this community that worked its way into his art.”

The 40-minute event will take place at 7 p.m. at the museum. The event is free, but attendees need to register on the museum’s website in advance.

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