SS Dunkeld
by Antonio Jacobsen
Oil on canvas, 20" x 35"

SS Dunkeld was a British freighter, built in 1905, by Sir J. Laing and Sons of Sunderland, England. She was 2,764 tons gross and 1,786 tons net, 319.5 feet in length. Dunkeld was owned by Kilgour Steamship Company, Ltd. of London. At one time during her career she was chartered by the Munson Line. A steel single deck, single screw steamer, she was powered by a triple expansion engine, generating 284 NHP. Her Official Number was 120521 and her signal letters were HOLP.

This painting of the steamship Dunkeld is not listed in The Checklist (see references below), but is listed as a sketch dated 1906. The painting probably dates from this same time, done within a day or two of when the sketch was made. The painting is very typical of Antonio Jacobsen's work.  See his paintings of the New York Pilot boat New York, SS Katie, and SS Havana also in this collection.

Antonio N.G. Jacobsen (1850-1921) is the best known of American ship portrait painters.  It has been estimated that he created some 8,000 paintings during his career (ca 1874-1921).  Some 5,000 to 6,000 paintings have actually been identified from found paintings, sketches in his sketchbooks, references in catalogs, from private collections, and in various notes. He was known to finish a painting in a day.  He came from Denmark in 1873 as a young man to avoid military service there.  Within a few years he started painting the ships he saw in New York Harbor. Commissions poured in and a stunning career began.

His painting style can easily be recognized, especially the water, which remained consistent until his final years.  The vessels are mostly portrayed in port profile, nearly two dimensional.  He often went to see his subjects, making a detailed sketch in a sketchbook.  Many of these sketchbooks are now preserved at the Mariners Museum in Virginia.  He used a system in creating the sketches, to record colors, dimensions, proportions, and special features.  He then created the paintings at his home studio. He is also well known for putting his address on the paintings along with his signature.  He did this on the painting of the New York Pilot Boat New York.  When undated by Jacobsen, paintings can be dated to a relative range based on these addresses, because it is known when he moved to the various locations.  Jacobsen usually charged $100 to $150 for a painting, based on size and what he thought the client might pay.  During economic panics he charged as little as $5 for a painting.  He was able to make a good living from these painting fees.

Jacobsen knew many other famous marine painters in New York at the time. Tony Peluso, marine art expert, refers to them as the Hoboken School. Jacobsen often entertained Samuel Ward Stanton, James Bard, James Buttersworth, Fred Cozzens, Fred Pansing, Worden Wood, and Albert F. Bishop in his home. (See also the paintings by Albert F. Bishop in this collection, Naval Vessel, Liner & U-boat and USS Nicholson.


In the early 20th century photography and other factors began to have an effect on his business, so he began to speculate, creating paintings of long gone sailing vessels such as the famous Black Ball Line of transatlantic packet ships.  He had lived well during the heyday of his life, but unfortunately, he never saved for the future and fell on hard times towards the end of his career. 

One of the original founders of the Steamship Historical Society of America and our first president, Mr. Elwin M. Eldredge (1893-1965), a well known steamship historian and archivist out of Brooklyn, was a close friend of Antonio Jacobsen. He was also a client for Jacobsen's paintings, acquiring some 125 of them, starting in about 1914.  In 1940, he gave his entire collection of Jacobsen paintings, letters, and notes to the Mariner's Museum.  Later, he facilitated Mariner's in obtaining the sketchbooks mentioned above. The original idea for a book compiling information about Jacobsen’s work, called the Checklist, was Eldredge's.

Anita Jacobsen (no relation) wrote Jacobsen's biography From Sail To Steam, in 1972.  She knew both his daughter and son, Alphonse.  Antonio Jacobsen: The Checklist, (1984) is a book that lists his known paintings, and Antonio Jacobsen: The Checklist,  Addenda List Number 2, was published in 1994 along with Antonio Jacobsen's Painted Ships on Painted Oceans.  All three of these books were written by the late Harold S. Sniffen of Mariner's Museum.  Since then, many more Jacobsen paintings have come to light, including some in the Posner Collection.  If you are an Antonio Jacobsen fan or collector all four of these books come highly recommended, as they all offer something different about this beloved maritime artist.


The Checklist, compiled by Harold Sniffen, 1984

The Checklist, Addenda Number 2, compiled by Harold Sniffen, 1994

Painted Ships On Painted Oceans, by Harold Sniffen, 1994. 

From Sail To Steam - The Story of Antonio Jacobsen Marine Artist, by Anita Jacobsen, 1972.  


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