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Artist Biography

 James Bard and his twin brother John were born in Chelsea, New York in 1815. Both boys enjoyed painting, and by age twelve they collaborated on a portrait of the steamboat Bellona that started their professional painting career. The brothers continued to paint together until the winter of 1849, when the partnership ended due to personal differences. James continued to produce paintings of sailing vessels along the Hudson River, including schooners and yachts. But he was best known for his depictions of steamships, which became his specialty in a time when steam-powered machinery was changing the nation.

The majority of Bard's commissions were requested by captains and vessel owners. Many of Cornelius Vanderbuilt's vessels were painted by James Bard and it is a strong possibility that these commissions established Bard as a popular marine painter. James Bard had a unique signature style, always displaying a large flag on each ship identifying its owner. Thanks to Bard's training in sign painting, the lettering on the flags and boats was done with the quality and precision of a skilled draftsman. As Bard's close friend and fellow marine painter Samuel Ward Stanon explained, “before making his drawing, Mr. Bard would measure the boat to be pictured end to end, and not a panel, stanchion, or other part of the vessel distinguishable from the outside, was omitted; each portion was measured and drawn to scale.”

Bard's active career lasted from about 1826 to 1890 and was considered one of the best artists in his field. While he was best known for his Hudson River steamers, he also worked near the docks in lower Manhattan. His works can be found in the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn; the Peabody Institute, Baltimore; and the Mariners Museum, Norfolk, Virginia.