If a person may be measured by the work he or she leaves the world, Samuel Ward Stanton equates well with any marine artist. An avid scholar and author, his diverse body of work focuses on the subject of his primary interest, American steamships. It’s as an artist that he is best remembered; rightly so, with crisp, narrative ship portraits and illustrations to his credit.
The tragic accident of the S.S. Titanic was compounded by the fact that Samuel Ward Stanton was counted among the passengers lost. He had journeyed to Spain to research the setting of the Washington Irving novel “Alhambra”, having received a commission to paint murals within the day line’s new passenger ship named after the author. He prolonged the journey long enough to study with Jules Lefebvre in Paris and at the Académie Julian. One may only wonder what direction his highly technical and artistic works would have traveled once this education influenced his output.
So what we have from this American master is this: more than 1000 images, primarily ink on paper, but some oils, of steamships from the northeast and great lakes regions. Many were the largest and most prestigious steamships to ply the coastwise and American passenger trades. Stanton’s penultimate publication, “American Steam Vessels”, published in 1895, is the single finest source of information for many of these ships. His technical artistic ability is every bit the equal of Antonio Jacobsen and James Bard, while his works arguably possess somewhat finer aesthetical qualities.