The Financial Times warns that the maritime painting category is too specific a niche for buyers who do not love the subject matter for the romance of the age of sail or simply for itself:
Marine painting was at its height during the 19th century when ships were vital to international trade and their owners and captains were all-powerful. Such people often commissioned “portraits” of their most prized vessels, commonly having them painted with great realism and on a large scale for display in their opulent homes. In England, the constant bustle of shipping traffic provided endless subjects for so-called “pier head” painters, who would sketch the vessels they saw, working up the results into highly finished oils. Typical of these was Joseph Heard, who operated in Liverpool – he often painted ships on a tilt in order to show crews at work, so adding interest to the scene. The record for a marine painting at auction was set at £1.59m in 1999 when Sotheby’s sold van de Velde the Younger’s “The Morning Gun” in its December Old Masters sale. More “mainstream” marine paintings are, however, more affordable: works by known names start in the low thousands.
The Market: Maritime Paintings (Financial Times)
The Maritime Sale, Sept. 13th (Bonhams)