Works by maritime artist Raymond A. Massey are on display now through March 31, part of the major show of the year at Ship Store Galleries in Coconut Marketplace in Waipouli.
Artist-historian Massey returned to Kaua‘i recently (there is also a story in Kauai Publishing Company’s visitor publication, Essential Kaua‘i) for his annual one-man show.
He also scheduled a series of marine-history lectures held at the gallery in conjunction with the unveiling of his newest original oils.
This year’s featured work is an enormous oil on canvas entitled “Sunset Rendezvous,” which depicts a view of Bali Hai with two British ships anchored in Hanalei Bay.
The vessels, HMS Sulphur and Starling, were commissioned in 1837 by the British admiralty to chart Hanalei Bay, a task not completed by earlier British explorers including the legendary Captain James Cook.
Like all of Massey’s historical depictions, the painting is based on months of research gleaned from a myriad of sources including ship logs, journals, and periodicals, correspondence and on site examination and observation.
One of the artist’s history talks focused on the 1837 expedition and, to add a touch of authenticity, Massey digitally merged his own work on a copy of Capt. Edward Belcher’s original chart of Hanalei Bay.
According to Massey, who is a fellow in the American Society of Marine Artists, the painting represents a piece of history that has never before been artistically chronicled.
“I was intrigued by the fact that the bay was still uncharted even though numerous British and American vessels had visited the area prior to the 1837 expedition,” said Massey.
The Hawaiians, Massey noted, were familiar with the reefs and currents, and their outrigger canoes could traverse the tricky coastal passage without the need of detailed charts.
“The Europeans, however, particularly the British, were adamant about the necessity of accurate sailing charts of the Pacific primarily for purposes of trade,” Massey explained.
This is the second major work that Massey has painted of the charting expedition of 1837.
Another work, showing the two ships outward bound from Kaua‘i with a highly detailed view of Na Pali Coast in the background, was completed last year, and is exhibited at this year’s show.
Measuring six feet in length, it is the largest painting of the artist’s 40-year career.
Both of the paintings are also being reproduced as limited-edition prints, and can be acquired through the gallery, according to Carol von Wiegen, co-owner of Ship Store Galleries.
Massey’s art is recognized for its marine historical subject matter, but he occasionally paints a scene more related to natural history, such as the panoramic view of Kilauea Point that is also exhibited at the show.
The scene, Massey explained, was inspired by the natural beauty of the area and its thriving population of bird and marine life.
“I have spent many hours offshore observing the coast around Kilauea, and I was fortunate to spot a breaching humpback on one occasion,” Massey said.
The artist used the whale’s acrobatic performance as the focal point for his Kilauea painting, which pays homage as well to the magnificent sea birds that make their home at the wildlife sanctuary.