NEWPORT — The Mariner Gallery remodeled its basement to look like the interior of the U.S. frigate Constellation, launched in 1797, and opened the new gallery space to its first show this past weekend.
The new exhibit, featured in all the gallery spaces of the Colonial building at 267 Spring St., shows the work of five renowned contemporary marine artists and includes 80 oil paintings.
One of those artists is Peter Arguimbau, the gallery owner, who just completed a new painting that focuses on a corsair sailing in Newport Harbor with Fort Adams in the background.
Arguimbau and other artists participating in the show have a love of the sea heightened by their own sailing adventures. Arguimbau views boats and seascapes from his S/Y Molly Rose, a 30-foot Catboat that was built in 1935. Around that time, single-mast, single-sail Catboats were adapted for racing, with long booms and gaffs, bowsprits and large jibs fitted to capture as much wind as possible.
Richard Loud and Gerald Fellows, two of the other marine artists participating in the exhibit, co-own a 1936 Alden Yawl that they sail out of Westport, Massachusetts.
“The boat has been there since it was built, but I bought it 10 years ago,” Loud said. “I like people to know that I sail.”
All the artists study ships closely to make them historically accurate.
“My father was a yacht designer and I picked up on that,” Loud said. “His boats still come up in boating magazines, most recently in Wooden Boat.”
His father, Peter Loud, died in 1986 and the 30th anniversary of his death led to a feature about him in the magazine.
In one of his pieces on display at the gallery, Richard Loud portrays a ship called the Elizabeth Howard, a Gloucester, Massachusetts, fishing schooner.
Another is entitled “A Close Start” and shows Inter-Club sailboats on Long Island Sound in the 1920s.
Loud and Laura Cooper, a marine artist also featured in the exhibit, work in a studio together and both live in Quincy, Massachusetts. The fifth contemporary artist featured in the exhibit is David Monteiro from Plymouth, Massachusetts.
The artists talked to visitors during a “Meet the Artists” reception Saturday evening that celebrated the opening of the exhibit.
Cooper has a painting in the exhibit called “Passing Squall” that she just finished this year and portrays a schooner.
“We’ve been painting together for 12 or 13 years,” Cooper said of her working relationship with Loud.
She started out painting plein air, or outdoors, as well as in portraiture before moving to studio painting.
Her works now have mainly a maritime theme, something Loud influenced her to do.
“I love plein air painting, although it can be stressful because you have people watching you over your shoulder,” she said. “On Monhegan Island (in Maine) once, tourists were making all kinds of comments on what I should be doing and not doing. It was mostly negative.”
In spite of experiences like that, “I’d love to go back to it,” she said.
She has been a nurse at Boston City Hospital for several years and previously worked at Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital.
“I was painting the whole time during my years as a nurse,” she said. “You can’t make a living as an artist.”
The artists have varied backgrounds.
In his youth, Arguimbau studied classical art of the baroque era in Florence, Rome and Naples, as well as Hellenistic classicism in Athens, Olympia and Delphi, Greece, for three years. He learned the techniques of the old masters by copying paintings from museums throughout Europe and America.
After a decade spent testing oil paint recipes from medieval manuscripts with restorer Pierro Mannoni, he continues to grind his colors from powdered pigments and cooks his mediums without relying on mass-produced products.
Arguimbau and his son, Andre Arguimbau, the manager of the gallery, emphasize 19th-century marine art, as well as contemporary art that complements those works from more than a century ago.
For example, on display in the current exhibit is a painting from James Edward Butterworth from 1874, “Cornelia and Magic Rounding Buoy 8½,” a scene off the New York City coast.
The Arguimbaus bought the 1772 Stephen Dubois House in 2015 and spent the first two years renovating the building to its Colonial appearance.
They then deepened the dirt floor of the basement to create the new gallery space that resembles the USS Constellation’s interior, celebrating one of the first six frigates built for the U.S. Navy.
This is the first art show for which all the gallery rooms in the house are being used, including the new lower gallery, Peter Arguimbau said.
“I was fascinated by the bowing of the walls,” said Tiffany Rothengast of Huntington, N.Y., one of the guests Sunday night.
“I lived for 40 days on the Ocean Star, a dual-mast wooden ship, so this is very familiar to me,” she said as she looked around the new gallery space. “The windows are like portholes. The room encapsulates the ship environment for the maritime paintings to be displayed. I’ve never seen anything like this.”