American (1837-1911) 
Thimble Islands, Near New Haven 
oil on
canvas, signed "A. Cary Smith" lower right. 
11 1/2 x 21 1/2 inches 








Archibald Cary Smith was born and raised in New York City. He studied shipbuilding on the eastern banks of the Hudson River at a time when the New York Yacht Club was still a fledgling organization. He became a successful designer of speed yachts and sailing vessels, a legacy for which he is still celebrated today. In his youth, he became acquainted with M.F.H. deHaas who would become an important teacher.


In 1863, already a ship builder, Smith set out to become a painter taking classes with deHaas among others in New York. He was very talented and for a time pursued a painting career almost exclusively. In the 1860s his paintings were exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, the Brooklyn Art Association and at the National Academy of Design. Smith gave painting instruction to James Gale Tyler, another important marine painter, during this period.


Despite his success as a painter, Smith primarily worked as a ship designer well into his seventies. He continued to paint by special commission for clients who sought him out for his talent depicting ships and seascapes. Among his private patrons was banker James Stillman who  donated the large and important painting “Wanderer” he commissioned to the New York Yacht Club, where it still hangs today.


The present lot, Near New Haven, Thimble Islands, was probably painted during a sailing trip on Long Island Sound. Branford’s Thimble Islands were a popular destination for New Yorkers in the nineteenth-century. The painting depicts the view from the Connecticut coastline across Long Island Sound. The Sound is filled with sailboats racing in a regatta at dusk. Smith demonstrates his mastery of Luminism by capturing the pinks, blues and yellows in the sky and reflected on the calm water.


It is believed that Smith painted less than 200 works in his lifetime. Shannon’s is delighted to offer the present lot both for its rarity and for the celebration of the natural beauty of our local Connecticut coastline.

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