Exhibition

In American Waters

On view May 29, 2021 to October 3, 2021

For over 200 years, artists have been inspired to capture the beauty, violence, poetry and transformative power of the sea in American life. Oceans play a key role in American society no matter where we live, and the sea continues to inspire painters today to capture its mystery and power.

In American Waters reveals that marine painting is so much more than ship portraits. In this exhibition, visitors will also discover the sea as an expansive way to reflect on American culture and environment, learn how coastal and maritime symbols moved inland across the United States, and question what it means to be “in American waters.” Be transported across time and water on the wave of a diverse range of modern and historical artists including Georgia O’Keeffe, Amy Sherald, Kay WalkingStick, Norman Rockwell, Hale Woodruff, Paul Cadmus, Thomas Hart Benton, Jacob Lawrence, Valerie Hegarty, Stuart Davis, and many others.

Share your impressions of this experience using #InAmericanWaters

In American Waters: The Sea in American Painting is organized by the Peabody Essex Museum and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit www.arts.gov.

National Endowment for the Arts


We are grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Ulf B. Heide, Angus and Leslie Littlejohn, Sam and Tracey Byrne, Lee Campbell Jr., Chip and Susan Robie, Tim and Joanie Ingraham, the Salem Marine Society, Fiduciary Trust Company, Mr. and Mrs. Thaddeus R. Gillespie, Howard and Wendy Hodgson, Mr. and Mrs. William J. Kneisel, Mr. and Mrs. Stuart W. Pratt, Abby and Gene Record, Mr. and Mrs. Ernst H. von Metzsch, Connie and Stan Grayson, Mr. and Mrs. Stephen S. Lash, and Amanda Clark MacMullan for their generous support, and to Carolyn and Peter S. Lynch and The Lynch Foundation, Jennifer and Andrew Borggaard, James B. and Mary Lou Hawkes, Kate and Ford O’Neil, and Henry and Callie Brauer for their ongoing exhibition support. We also recognize the generosity of the East India Marine Associates of the Peabody Essex Museum.

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TOP IMAGE: William Trost Richards. Along the Shore, 1903. Oil on canvas. 39 3/16 × 78 1/2 in. Courtesy Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2009.1. Photography by Steven Watson.

James Edward Buttersworth (1817 - 1894).   Yacht Racing off Sandy Hook, about 1877. Oil on canvas. 20 1/8 × 36 in. (51.1 × 91.4 cm). Collection of Alan Granby and Janice Hyland.
James Edward Buttersworth (1817 - 1894). Yacht Racing off Sandy Hook, about 1877. Oil on canvas. 20 1/8 × 36 in. (51.1 × 91.4 cm). Collection of Alan Granby and Janice Hyland.
John Bertonccini (1872 – 1947) Whaling vessels in the Ice, Herschel Island, about 1894-95 Oil on canvas 18 x 31 in. (45.72 x 78.74 cm) Museum purchase with funds donated by the Maritime Art and History Visiting Committee, 2019 2019.33.1
John Bertonccini (1872 – 1947). Whaling vessels in the Ice, Herschel Island, about 1894-95. Oil on canvas. 18 x 31 in. (45.72 x 78.74 cm) Museum purchase with funds donated by the Maritime Art and History Visiting Committee, 2019. 2019.33.1
William Trost Richards. Old Ocean's Gray and Melancholy Waste, 1885. Oil on canvas. 40 3/4 x 72 1/4 in. (103.5 x 183.5 cm.). Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia. Gift of Mrs. Edward H. Coates (The Edward H. Coates Memorial
William Trost Richards. Old Ocean's Gray and Melancholy Waste, 1885. Oil on canvas. 40 3/4 x 72 1/4 in. (103.5 x 183.5 cm.). Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia. Gift of Mrs. Edward H. Coates (The Edward H. Coates Memorial Collection), 1923.9.6.
Conrad Wise Chapman. Submarine Torpedo Boat H. L. Hunley Dec. 6 1863, about 1864. oil on board. 00985.14.37a. Courtesy of The American Civil War Museum, Richmond, VA.
Conrad Wise Chapman. Submarine Torpedo Boat H. L. Hunley Dec. 6 1863, about 1864. oil on board. 00985.14.37a. Courtesy of The American Civil War Museum, Richmond, VA.
William Trost Richards. Along the Shore, 1903. Oil on canvas. 39 3/16 × 78 1/2 in. Courtesy Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2009.1. Photography by Steven Watson.
William Trost Richards. Along the Shore, 1903. Oil on canvas. 39 3/16 × 78 1/2 in. Courtesy Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2009.1. Photography by Steven Watson.
Childe Hassam (1859–1935). East Headland, Appledore, Isles of Shoals, 1911. Oil on canvas 30 × 36 in. (76.2 × 91.4 cm). Gift of Peter S. Lynch in memory of Carolyn A. Lynch, 2018. 2018.72.1. © 2018 Peabody Essex Museum.
Childe Hassam (1859–1935). East Headland, Appledore, Isles of Shoals, 1911. Oil on canvas 30 × 36 in. (76.2 × 91.4 cm). Gift of Peter S. Lynch in memory of Carolyn A. Lynch, 2018. 2018.72.1. © 2018 Peabody Essex Museum.
Kay WalkingStick. New Hampshire Coast, 2020. Oil on panel. 40 x 80 in.. Courtesy of the artist. ©Kay WalkingStick. Courtesy of the Artist.. Photography by Rich Schultz
Kay WalkingStick. New Hampshire Coast, 2020. Oil on panel. 40 x 80 in.. Courtesy of the artist. ©Kay WalkingStick. Courtesy of the Artist.. Photography by Rich Schultz
Edward Moran (1829 - 1901). The Valley in the Sea, 1862. Oil on canvas. 49 ¼ x 73 ¼ x 4 ¼ in. (125.1 x 186.1 x 10.8 cm). Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, Martha Delzell Memorial. Fund, 70.5, DiscoverNewfields.org.
Edward Moran (1829 - 1901). The Valley in the Sea, 1862. Oil on canvas. 49 ¼ x 73 ¼ x 4 ¼ in. (125.1 x 186.1 x 10.8 cm). Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, Martha Delzell Memorial. Fund, 70.5, DiscoverNewfields.org.
Michele Felice Cornè (1752-1845). Ship America on the Grand Banks, about 1800. Oil on canvas. 39 3/4 x 56 inches (100.965 x 142.24 cm). Gift of Mrs. Francis B. Crowninshield, 1953. M8257. © 2014 Peabody Essex Museum.
Michele Felice Cornè (1752-1845). Ship America on the Grand Banks, about 1800. Oil on canvas. 39 3/4 x 56 inches (100.965 x 142.24 cm). Gift of Mrs. Francis B. Crowninshield, 1953. M8257. © 2014 Peabody Essex Museum.
Theresa Bernstein (1890-2002). The Immigrants, 1923. Oil on canvas. 40 x 50 in. (101.6 x 127 cm). Thomas and Karen Buckley Image courtesy of Woodmere Art Museum.
Theresa Bernstein (1890-2002). The Immigrants, 1923. Oil on canvas. 40 x 50 in. (101.6 x 127 cm). Thomas and Karen Buckley Image courtesy of Woodmere Art Museum.
Points of view


As this exhibition vigorously asserts, marine painting is so much more than ship portraits.
– Dan Finamore, exhibition co-curator


Artists have long crafted narratives of deepwater activities that take place far beyond America’s shores, extending the image of the nation’s engagement with the world into mid-ocean and beyond. Captain of a whaling fleet, John Bertonccini was also an artist who was said to paint at every opportunity, even using the ship’s paint supplies when his own ran out. In the 1890s his fleet traveled into Arctic waters off the Yukon’s north coast in pursuit of their prey, allowing their ships to freeze into the ice so they could winter over rather than make the long journey home each year. In a new work to enter PEM's collection, the artist created a birds’-eye view of their winter grounds showing the crew playing soccer and baseball to pass the time.

Curator Perspective


Daniel Finamore, Associate Director - Exhibitions, The Russell W. Knight Curator of Maritime Art and History talks about In American Waters.

PEMcast


Sea Shanties and the Environment: PEMcast episode 21, Part 2
In this episode, host Dinah Cardin explores the PEM’s new climate + environment initiative and its related maritime exhibitions.

Plan your visit


PEM is open Thursdays, Saturdays & Sundays 10 am–5 pm, Fridays 10 am-8 pm and holiday Mondays.

Learn what steps are being taken to ensure the health and safety of our community at pem.org/safety.

Visitors may purchase advanced general admission tickets at pem.org/tickets or by calling 978-542-1511.

Admission: Adults $20; seniors $18; students $12; youth, members, and Salem residents free.

Location: East India Square, 161 Essex Street, Salem, MA 01970.

In American Waters catalogue
Exhibition Catalogue


In American Waters: The Sea in American Painting

Visit the PEM Shop in person or online at shop.pem.org to purchase the exhibition catalogue.

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Related \\ Connected

A word with Curator Dan Finamore on summer exhibition In American Waters

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Diving into the sea’s transformative power with In American Waters

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PEMcast 21, Part 1: The sea shanty craze

Press \\ Press Release

In American Waters Casts New Light on Our Relationship with the Sea