Soundings - - Neck And Neck - OIL PAINT­ING BY TIM THOMP­SON — Steve Knauth

They were known to the British as the “Big Class.” The Amer­ica’s Cup boats of the late 19th and early 20th cen­turies were un­ruly — some­times down­right per­ilous — rac­ing ma­chines. British artist Tim Thomp­son cap­tures the dan­ger in the speed and power of these 120-foot megasloops in his star­tling work Neck and Neck. Ev­ery­thing is big: the taut can­vas sails, the bow waves, the crashing sea — ev­ery­thing ex­cept the crew­men. They were Thomp­son’s in­spi­ra­tion. “I wanted to cap­ture the ac­tion, show­ing the dar­ing bow­men,” he says.

Any­one who has manned the fore­deck on a rac­ing boat, be it a J/24 or a Cup boat, knows the feel­ing: rid­ing the buck­ing bow, spray fly­ing, hands wet, face stream­ing, out there to han­dle a snap­ping, flap­ping head­sail. “What a job to work those sails and lines in that precarious po­si­tion,” Thomp­son says.

The boats could be Valkyrie II and Vig­i­lant from the 1893 Cup, the 67-year-old artist says, “but I added lit­tle em­bel­lish­ments. It’s a gen­eral rac­ing scene; it’s no par­tic­u­lar mo­ment or race. What’s im­por­tant are the crew­men on the fore­deck and bowsprit.”

Thomp­son draws on the tech­niques of 17th-cen­tury Dutch artists to cre­ate shades of color with washes and tints, “al­ways try­ing to get the light to give a glow to the sails,” he says.

Thomp­son got his first break as an artist af­ter an in­jury at work while he was a hor­ti­cul­tur­ist in Eng­land. “I took the easel and started to make a bet­ter liv­ing by paint­ing nau­ti­cal his­tor­i­cal sub­jects in Ply­mouth and Devon,” he says.

Born in Hull, Eng­land, in 1951, Thomp­son lived for a time on the rugged, sea-girt Chan­nel Is­lands. He now re­sides and paints in Corn­wall. Hon­ored in Great Bri­tain, Thomp­son’s book, Gold Medal Res­cues, about the Royal Na­tional Lifeboat In­sti­tu­tion, has a fore­word by Queen El­iz­a­beth and Prince Philip, who signed a lim­ited edi­tion of his print com­mem­o­rat­ing the 50th an­niver­sary of D-Day.

To view this and other works by Tim Thomp­son, visit the J. Rus­sell Jin­ishian Gallery web­site at jrus­selljin­ishi­an­ or visit the gallery at 1899 Bron­son Road in Fair­field, Con­necti­cut. Call ahead for gallery hours, (203) 521-1099.

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