Book Review | The Coast & the Sea: Marine and Maritime Art in America at the New-York Historical Society by Linda S. Ferber

Previously published by Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) Reviews in January 2015.

the coast & the sea book cover In addition to serving as an exhibit catalog for part of “Sharing a National Treasure: The Traveling Exhibition Program of the New-York Historical Society”, The Coast & the Sea: Marine and Maritime Art in America at the New-York Historical Society aims to delve into the visually expressive customs of marine and maritime painting and to demonstrate the connections and relations between them. Works covered range from 1728 to 1904 and focus mainly on happenings at, and evolution of, the New York Harbor. Paintings and text also focus on Naval involvement in the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

Author Linda S. Ferber is the Senior Art Historian at the New-York Historical Society and previously served as curator. She does a noteworthy job connecting all of the paintings through her guiding narrative. By drawing the reader’s attention to particular aspects of the pieces, Ferber ably links the objects’ artistic and historic backgrounds.

The text can be easily read as a book that recounts a factual series of events, or referenced intermittently as a research piece. It could also serve as an introduction to marine and maritime art, since Ferber concisely explains the concepts. An introduction to the Hudson River School painting movement is also provided.

Color reproductions of over sixty paintings form the core of the volume. Photographs of a handful of maritime objects are also a welcome addition to the text. Often figures and their descriptions are on subsequent pages, which requires the reader to flip back and forth to view the specific aspects of the painting that are being described.

Though the book has a table of contents, it is not very helpful since the main body of the text is listed as a single section without reference to the topical, titled subsections within it. A selected bibliography provides information on a number of sources for additional research. The book’s index is quite thorough and useful, as is the notes section. The thick, glossy pages of this book along with a solid stitched and glued binding make for a physically sound, high quality volume. The jacket and square shape are appealing and appropriate for the content included.

This book would be a suitable reference piece for anyone researching American marine or maritime paintings, New York coastal history or art related to Naval involvement in early American wars.

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About amy de simone
Amy is an active volunteer, traveler and photographer. She is interested in art, libraries, museums and nonprofits. She holds an M.A. in Library & Information Studies and a B.A. in Italian Language & Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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