James Bard


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Painter. Until around 1850 he collaborated on paintings of ships with his twin, John Bard (1815–56), but later continued on his own. They specialized in depicting the new steam-driven vessels of their day on the Hudson River but also portrayed sailboats. Born in New York and self-taught as artists, they found a steady clientele there among ship owners and captains. John seems to have left the partnership a few years before his death, but during the collaboration he apparently added coloring to James's designs. To achieve the specificity admired by their patrons, before embarking on most paintings James is thought to have made measurements and scaled drawings. A prolific worker, he continued to paint until around 1890. He died in White Plains, a New York suburb. Working in an unsophisticated, conceptual style, the Bards employed patterned design, scrupulously observed detail, and fanciful flourishes to achieve lively, even exuberant visions of American technology at work. By sidestepping the traditional European formulas for creating convincing illusionism, their style suggests the independent, nativist spirit that fueled American enterprise and pervaded mid-century political and social life. Exemplifying his customary formula, James Bard's O. M. Pettit (New-York Historical Society, 1857) portrays a side-wheeler, with water in the foreground and hills in the distance. Smoke from its stack streams behind, as do three colorful, outsize flags flapping in the breeze. A few men, also slightly overscaled, are visible on deck. Radiating optimism and delight, the painter's invention floats as confidently as its subject.

Subjects: Art.

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