Not available, this painting has been selected by a juror.
Not available, this painting has been selected by a juror.
86" x 42"
Purchased by the Lafayette Art Association
"The Cruise of the Ellida, by F. Luis Mora, 1910
Essay by Lynne Pauls Baron
Excerpted from chapter 6 of the forthcoming book: F. Luis Mora (1874-1940), America’s First Hispanic Master, by Lynne Pauls Baron © 2008, Edited by Peter Hastings Falk, Falk Art Reference publishers, Madison, Connecticut. ISBN 0932087-62-00All rights reserved.
F. Luis Mora’s monumental outdoor American composition in 1910 was conceived while sailing. His wife, Sonia, had three brothers (Alfred, William (Bill), and Lewis Compton) who were experienced sailors who had grown up in Perth Amboy, New Jersey on the Raritan Bay. All were considerably younger than Sonia. In mid-August, the Compton “boys,” as Mora called them, invited him to join them on a cruise up the Hudson River on their 40-foot wooden sloop, the Ellida. Their destination was Newburgh, New York, about 80 miles north of Perth Amboy where they “pushed off” to sail 60 miles north of Manhattan. Mora packed a sketchbook and his pocket diary, and wrote an energetic travelogue. “Started on the cruise up the Hudson. Alfred, Bill, Lewis, and I had a great old sail across New York Harbor. Made our landing at the foot of 91st Street . . . being allowed to use the Hudson River Yacht Club. [We were] welcomed by a mellowed gent, mellowed by booze, who told us the story of the club, clubhouse, and Ladies.” Mora did not have a restful night on the sloop’s hard deck, but he took pleasure in the escapade: “. . . one must in the spirit of wild adventure put up with all the sufferings . . . and put yourself through, and say what a great time you’ve had—and you have.
After a “splendid day and magnificent sail” across the Tappan Zee on the third day, Mora commented, “We are continually being deceived on distances and places. One does not realize the proportion of a river like the Hudson until sailing it on a small boat.” The Tappan Zee, named by the Dutch, is where the Hudson River widens and resembles a large lake. Its wide expanse and majestic coastline views had attracted the Hudson River School painters in the nineteenth century. As the sailing team “hunted about for a harborage,” they enjoyed a “beautiful moonlight sail with a glorious moonrise.” After docking in Newburgh “after a splendid sail through the Highlands,” Mora and two of the Compton brothers visited Mary Trask Chulmer, Sonia’s painter-friend. But there were formalities, even while sailing. Lewis had remained behind because he “found he was not fit in costume to go for a call.”
Homeward bound, the men paused to get haircuts in a barbershop in Tarrytown. Back on the river, they soon encountered “much wind and rain, high wind, rough water, and head tide . . .” On August 26, their nine-day cruise was completed, and all “the boys” showered and slept well in Perth Amboy. Inspired by the cruise, Mora immediately set about sketching one of his intimate impressions of the crew. “Have made a sketch that I am going to develop into a large upright panel shaped composition, The Cruise of the Ellida. I want a big note of form on the canvas. I want life and vigor and if everything else goes, I won’t regret it.” Thus, he stretched an 8-foot vertical canvas “to get the feeling of swing and tilt so that the movement of the boat may be realized with . . . very little that is seen of it.” While working on this monumental painting, he stated, “Art is the whispering of the great voice of nature that quietly, peacefully, and unremittingly lifts men to higher thoughts, higher deeds, and finer aspirations.” He had already captured light and atmosphere most effectively in Shadows in the Orchard, his first large Impressionistic composition. Now, in his Ellida composition, he intended to go a step further and “infuse the spirit of the light and motion.
The Cruise of the Ellida shows a remarkable similarity to En la Vola (Fig. 5) by the legendary Spanish Impressionist, Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1923). Both compositions were painted in 1910 and show the energy and spirit of crewmen. Both concentrate on the human figure and their motion, rather than the boat itself. One wonders if Luis discussed such a composition with Sorolla when they met a year earlier in Valencia. Sorolla’s painting captures two four-man crews racing in their ocean wherries. Both compositions are vertical in format, focusing on three crewmen working cooperatively on the sea. Both show only a part of the boat, focusing instead on the men as vigorous subjects.
The Cruise of the Ellida was shown at the National Academy’s annual winter exhibition in 1910. In the same year it was purchased by children raising funds to buy it for the Greater Lafayette Art Association in Indiana. It was the first purchase for this newly founded art museum. The price was negotiated to $600 ($13,000 in 2006 dollars), and the museum director wrote that in 1943 it was still the children’s favorite.
Fig. 1. F. Luis Mora, preparatory sketch for The Cruise of the Ellida, picturing Alfred (standing) and Lewis. (medium, size, dimensions). In a letter to the director of the Greater Lafayette Art Museum, Luis wrote about the cruise: “We ran into some very ‘puffy’ weather which kept the boys on the lookout for ‘knockdowns’ . . . My idea in painting this picture was to express a typically American spirit, ‘The Spirit of Outdoors.’ The museum later acquired the graphite studies drawn during the “puffy weather” of the cruise.
Fig. 2. F. Luis Mora, sketch while on the cruise of the Ellida, up the Hudson River from from Perth Amboy, New Jersey, to Newburgh, New York.. (medium, size, dimensions).
Fig. 3. F. Luis Mora, sketch while on the cruise of the Ellida, up the Hudson River, from Perth Amboy, New Jersey, to Newburgh, New York. (medium, size, dimensions).
Fig. 4. F. Luis Mora, The Cruise of the Ellida, 1910, 96 x 54 inches, courtesy of the Greater Lafayette Art Museum Collection, Indiana. The figures (left to right) are the Compton brothers: Lewis, Alfred, and William.
Fig. 5. Joaquin Sorolla, En la Vola (On the Fly), 1910, oil on canvas, 47.5 x 31.5 inches. Courtesy of Sotheby’s, New York.