San Francisco: Embarking for the Voyage Home in 1850


This painting was another attempt to keep a theme simple and uncomplicated by supplemental factors. Somehow my less complex paintings, even if small (twelve inches by sixteen inches), have a more powerful impact than the large compositions with their extended narrative and their enticement to wander through their pathways and dwell awhile.

Here, the brig, anchored in deep water, awaits its new passengers, who will be taken abroad from a small boat. The picture was intended to conjure feelings of a moment of truth in a lonely world, of hopes and expectations at the start of an adventure. Its features were a common sight in the late 1850s, when the mode of transportation was the lowly buggy, casks were the method of shipping everything from apples to nails to oil, and the wooden ship was the carrier for greater distances.

Again I expand on the play of light between cool and warm. The horse and buggy, near the eye of the reflected moonlight, is in the path of a shaft of warm light from the wharf building. The farther this warm light is cast, the lesser its strength. The more accurately these qualities of light are indicated, the better will be the illusion of space they help create. The sky, as in my other works, is the factor that binds the whole together and balances out the silhouettes below.

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