The Art of Don Demers
Maritime Sailing Art
We are pleased to welcome maritime legend, Don Demers, to the Greenwich family of artists. A Massachusetts native, Don’s interest in painting maritime subjects began while spending his summers on the coast of Maine near Boothbay Harbor. Crewing aboard schooners, square-riggers and other traditional craft have provided both the foundation for his technical expertise and the vision to transfer his first-hand experience to the canvas. His love of sailing has not diminished over the years. The Old Boat House marks Don’s premiere release with Greenwich. This breathtaking vision captures the true spirit of the artist’s extraordinary talent. As the fresh breezes from a perfect day on the water fade away, these day sailors drift toward the protection and comfort of their secluded cove.
Trans-ocean racing is still a relatively new sport, but was simply unheard of in the 19th century. A lively dinner discussion at New York’s Union Club in October 1866 resulted in the first Trans-Atlantic challenge. The contenders: Pierre Lorillard’s Vesta, George and Franklin Osgood’s Fleetwing and New York Herald founder’s son, James Gordon Bennett Jr.’s Henrietta—all two-masted schooners. It was a winner-take-all —$30,000 plus bragging rights. On the morning of December 16, the starting gun was sounded and the vessels weighed anchor in the New York Narrows. Next stop—Cowes, England. Demers’ evocative painting depicts the end of the first day, the vessels having logged nearly 300 miles and still in sight of each other. By day two Fleetwing had a twenty-mile lead on Henrietta and a forty-mile lead on Vesta. The racing was serious. Remarkably, after 3,000 miles of intense sailing all three yachts finished within hours of each other. On December 26 at 3:46pm Henrietta was first, followed by Fleetwing at 1:00am and the ill fated Vesta, whose local English pilot had taken them in the wrong direction, allowing Fleetwing to pass her nearly in sight of the finish. Demers’ extraordinary painting transports us hundreds of miles to sea to experience the majesty of these three great vessels underway as if we were sailing alongside them.
The upper reaches of greater Nantucket Harbor are dotted with quiet and intimate places. Beautiful stretches of pastoral land spill into the water. Polpis Harbor is one of these places. “I came upon this inlet one lovely summer morning,” said the artist. “The early morning island breeze was beginning to lift, gently tugging at the small sailboats on their moorings. The serenity of this place wrapped around you like a blanket and that has stayed with me to this day.”
“Ocean Point, the setting of The Windswept Coast, is the primary reason that I am a marine artist,” says Don Demers. “As a boy, in the heyday of the Wyeths, this is where I spent my summers and was introduced to nautical subjects and their lore. I built ship models in my grandfather’s workshop and my grandmother would sew their sails for them at night while my grandfather and I played cribbage. All of this led to a lifelong love of the sea and everything around it.