The Hundred Guinea Cup, Cowes 2012

Oil on canvas 75.9 x 101.3cm; signed 'MARTIN SWAN', 2012

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A celebration of the historic Hundred Guinea Cup race of 75 nautical miles around the Isle of Wight, first instituted in 1851, and shown here in the event held at Cowes in July 2012. The low horizon of this painting puts the spectator at once on a level with the occupants of the yachts, giving an immediacy and sense of participation in the race, as the line is crossed and it begins. All kinds and sizes of boats skim this tranquil stretch of the Solent, heading east in a search for the wind; the play of their sails and tension between their positions reflect the movement of clouds in the panoramic skies. From left to right, the yachts Velsheda, Lionheart and Ranger can be seen, whilst at rest on the left-hand side an old two-masted sailing ship lends an historic perspective to this great race. The cool colouring gives a freshness and vibrancy to the composition, whilst the stylized, graphic lines which indicate the dinted surface of little waves, make an ironic reference to the tradition of naïve marines in the 18th and 19th centuries. A decorative work, this painting also generates a sense of passing time and hallowed tradition.

Biographical details

Martin  Swan was born in the Isle of Wight, and educated at the New University of Ulster, and University College, Aberystwyth. He studied sciences, philosophy and religion, but in the 1980s, when in his thirties, reverted to his boyhood occupation of drawing and painting. He spent about a decade as a landscape painter, before being seduced by the geometric shapes of and the play light and shadow on sailing boats; he came to specialize in resurrecting  the racing boats of the Solent from the second half of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries. He now paints marines as well as individual boats, and has also returned to landscape painting.

He has exhibited with the Royal Society of Marine Artists since 2000, being elected Associate Member in 2003 and Full Member in 2005. His first solo exhibition was held in the Isle of Wight in 2010.