SHIP MODEL Miniature - Defining the art

  • March 15, 2012 07:59

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Miniature shipmodel BATAVIA c.1628

It has been long regarded that ship models exist as a craftsman's art and has never been taken seriously as a true artform.

On the contrary...

Over the years, as both artist and historian, I have studied this art trend -and to my amazement and awe, found that the artist and the artform has, in my most humble observation, been a medium much sought after. Moreover, with the recent passing of noted British artist Donald McNarry, world-wide collectors have scowered the maritime searching for his signature miniatures since his retirement from the medium in 1983. At the auction house of Christies in New York one of his signature pieces sold for $41,000 in 2004 to a private corporation -evidence that the miniature ship model is a contemporary genre that is well respected in the arts community. Moreover, few artists have attained success in this field such as myself (Rex Stewart), Lloyd McCaffrey, Bob Wilson, Colin Gray and others of renown.

McNarry set the standard for these 'gems' with his first exhibition in 1935. Since then, with the innovation of computer technology, traditional skills of using one's hands have subtily become obsolete. More contemporary artists are taking easier routes and producing quicker and more detailed miniatures with this application. And though these works are impressive, they don't carry the same measure of artistry or quality as those produced by hand using the raw materials such as wood and linen. Most miniatures 'today' are made from copper, brass, plasticard, styrene, and plywood. I, on the otherhand, have taken the McNarry approach and have produced all of my miniatures from wood and have rigged my pieces with antique threads -omitting the soft copper wire that I find is a 'short-cut' for true workmanship.

HMS PRINCE c.1670 - Port Profile, Miniature Ship Model

As the viewer/collector can observe in the supporting photos, the works are uniquely original and is true art at its highest level, similiar to a painting. In essence, a painting will intrigue a collector with its timeless subject matter. It will also dance its array of color mass to entice a desire. In the same respect, a miniature shipmodel has similiar DNA. The only difference is that it's three dimensional, yet the miniature delivers intrigue, color and balance. The highend prices viewed at maritime galleries and auction houses prove this without dispute.

I encourage both the noice and serious collector to take a closer look at the shipmodel miniature and evaluate its content. Avoid the 'certificates of authenticity' and hone in on the actual miniature. View and, if possible, inspect it and ask serious questions about the materials and applications used. Research the history of the artist/builder relative to technique -and if everything alligns properly, move forward with the investment. Know the artist and know the work. Remember, every artist is unique unto themselves; and every artist has a standard that is a personal signature to the medium applied. NO gallery can 'stamp' a standard, this is the birthright and mandate of the artist.

Shipmodel Miniature HMS REVENGE c.1588
Rex Stewart

Miniatures exist because artists create them. Like a sculpture its value is unprecedented. Therefore, to the collector, or to those interested in collecting, research the possibilities, avoid the 'experts', and take a closer look at the work and the artist. This process is priceless and can bring much gain to your anticipated pieces. There are enough artists on the circuit for which to collect from. Take time to search.

And finally, enjoy this medium. It is truly an art to be repected and appreciated...and it does fall in the category of being a highend rare collectible, thanks to Donald McNarry and others. Those who have shown passion for the art.

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Steamboat Models -The Rare Investment

  • Rex Stewart
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The Hudson River steamboat model and other such works are highly sought after in the collectible market, primarily because of its rarity. Very few collectibles in this genre exist and there is a place where they can be realized and collected to enhance the Bard paintings that are now favored in the maritime.

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