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Major Maritime Exhibit To Debut


Since it's launching a year ago this month, the Newport Beach Nautical Museum has concentrated on local maritime history, from the creation of Newport Landing in 1870 to setting sail with the Eagle, a Newport Beach-based challenger in the America's Cup yacht races.

Starting today, the nonprofit museum is taking a temporary detour to display a major collection of British and American maritime art from the 19th Century to the present.

The local history displays and artifacts have come down to make room for the private Quester Maritime Collection of Stonington, Conn., which includes works by artists Robert Salmon (1775-1844), Antonio Jacobsen (1849-1921), James E. Buttersworth (1817-1894), Frederic Cozzens (1846-1928) and Montague Dawson (1895-1973).

"Any number of these would show up on anybody's list" of the most important maritime painters, said James P. Marenakos, director of the collection.

The best-known is Salmon, who worked in his native England until he moved to Boston in 1828, Marenakos said. Two of Salmon's original paintings are included in the exhibition that will run through June 21.

"He can be found in some form in every maritime museum of importance in England and America," Marenakos said.

The Quester collection is filled with many of the recurring images found in maritime art, such as square-rigged clippers at sea, frigates and other warships in battle, and yacht racing scenes. It is a genre that is more popular on the East Coast than on the West.

"The collecting of maritime art is relatively thin here on the West Coast," where there are just a few major collectors, Marenakos said. He estimated that there is more collector-quality maritime art sold in Boston and Philadelphia than in the rest of the country combined.

A collector before becoming an art dealer three years ago, Marenakos is trying to raise interest in maritime art in the West by traveling widely with the collection. The Newport Beach show comes directly from a gallery show in San Francisco.

Besides paintings and prints, the Quester collection includes ship models, some of which were made from bone nearly 200 years ago by prisoners in the Napoleonic wars. There are also antique nautical furniture and fixtures.

All items in the exhibit are for sale--with prices ranging up to $250,000 for one of the Salmon paintings. Part of the proceeds will go to benefit the host Newport Beach Nautical Museum, according to Terence A. Welsh, board president of the nonprofit facility.

The museum was founded by local residents, including members of two of Newport Beach's yacht clubs, as a way to "preserve Newport's nautical history," Welsh said.

And when the Quester exhibit comes down, the historical displays will go back up, he said. The decision to concentrate solely on local history was made early in the museum's planning, which started about two years before the doors opened.

The museum, housed in a city-owned building within a short walk of the beach on Balboa Boulevard, is still gathering support, and there are plans for expansion someday, Welsh said, adding: "We've only been open a year, and each year we'll gain some momentum."

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