Maritime Shadowboxes - Defining A Contemporary Style

  • March 05, 2012 15:33

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Maritime artist Rex Stewart working on a contemporary shadowbox titled - Midday Endeavor

Shadowboxes came into vogue as sailor keepsakes during the 18th century when crews placed in this window-framed box items that denoted a sailor or officer's career while with a ship. This was the early shadowbox. Since then, the shadowbox has developed into pictureque two-dimensional form containing either cultural or maritime-related subjects. As the American maritime market grew in the mid-70s, so did the shadowbox.

These were bulky wall pieces that centered around a shipmodel that was plaed in a setting with other vessels or coastal scenes which either depicted a lighthouse or town. The water was somewhat made of plaster of paris and the ship made of either wood or metal with wire rigging. This was the design of the late 19th and early 20th century.

Many 'general' shadowboxes have been categorized as folkart because of the limited detail and scanty paint applications. They have been bought and sold both in New England and across the Atlantic. At antique shows and galleries they have commanded highend prices -those (shadowboxes) which were articulate in design and presentation. These prices were based upon the artist (if possibly known), craftsmanship, materials, subject matter; and ultimately, quality. Maritime shadowboxes continue to be great investments today as they were thirty years ago. Beautiful collectibles that have become wonderful accent pieces, especially to homes in and around the Cape Cod Region and coastal towns throughout the United States and Europe.

Maritime shadowbox titled "Gloucester Coast" -woodsculpted by Rex Stewart

As an artist, craftsman and specialist in this field, restoring these works over the past 20 years, I decided to design my own class of signature shadowboxes. These were fanned-out, bevelled edge works that reflected the maritime with unique picturesque themes that many collectors have not, as yet, seen in totality. Realism had to be part of the composition to 'raise the bar of excellence' in this series. Therefore the challenge was to produce a one material piece that would, in essence, captivate the viewer and bring to light the beauty of wood in this genre. Furthermore, to make a stunning display evident by working the shadowbox so that it appeared as a two-dimensional painting. Only when the viewer approached the work would that viewer embrace the elements that were away from the background or backdrop. The background, itself would have settings of ships, seagulls, towns, lighthouses or anything that related to the theme or storyline.

Maritime shadowbox titled "Setting Sail" -woodsculpted by Rex Stewart

Because of its universal applications, these shadowboxes have been highly soughtafter by the most discriminating collector. The themes have been both vintage and contemporary. The images opposite this blog gives an idea of this contemporary style of maritime shadowbox, bearing in mind that yachting shadowboxes both contemporary and vintage can be realized. More about these can found by visiting

Again, these are great investments and timeless.


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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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