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Galleries   About Kipp Soldwedel   Americas Cup    Tall Ships   Art on Canvas

       K I P P   S O L D W E D E L  1 9 1 3 - 1 9 9 9

Recognized as one of the leading maritime artists of the 20th Century Kipp Soldewedel's paintings and prints hang in the homes and offices of ship lovers nationwide--as well as in the rotunda of the Statue of Liberty.

Aside from painting maritime vessels Soldwedel painted more than 150 portraits of governors, movie stars and royalty. His illustrations appeared in such magazines as National Geographic, Time, Life and Town and Country.
 

A
N ENTIRE BOOK could be written about the mercurial life of Kipp Soldwedel, an off-beat legend in his own time. 'A Brush with Adventure' might be an appropriate title.

   For example: in 1927, at age 14 he was flown across the United States by himself to promote public awareness of the safety of air travel. It was at this time that he met Charles Lindbergh, an event that greatly stimulated his interest in flying. By 1937, while a student at the American Academy in Rome, Soldwedel had become a pilot in the Italian Air Force Auxiliary Civilian Corps.

   The increasing possibility of World War II caused him to return to America where he joined the crew of the windjammer Seven Seas in a race to Bermuda against the Joseph Conrad. This was the first officially sanctioned race between square-rigged ships and a forerunner of Opera- tion Sail--1976. Over forty years of continued association with the sea in the role of both artist and crew member of these ships gave him a chance to "learn the ropes" and served as a continuing source of inspiration for such works as Tall Ships on Parade, among his most popular series of paintings.

The Grand Banks mural, La Jolla, California, 1954.

   In his role as painter Soldwedel was often asked: "How do you paint on the ocean?" He answered: "I don't. I once tried to paint on board my own boat but it wobbled too much. I acquire as much information on the nautical subject as I can from word of mouth, blue prints, photographs and historical records. The action of the sea, the wind and weather conditions and the light at a particular time of day are drawn from imagination and the "mind's eye," not the camera. The camera can provide helpful knowledge. It is useful aid, but not a crutch."

   While working an artist, he could be found in such diverse activities as riding the range in Texas, racing cars, instructing skiing, scuba diving, gliding, boat building, working as an electrical and ceramics engineer, weatherman fir the San Diego Union, Tribune newspapers, commercial photographer, advertising and insurance executive, historian and later publisher and distributor of his own work.

   When asked why so many diversions he answered simply: "I couldn't do anything better than paint."

"I once tried to

paint on board

my own boat

but it wobbled

too much." 

Operation Sail: New York 1976, Kipp Soldwedel

      Perhaps this is due to his family background. At the age of seven he began a thorough education in the fine arts under the influence of Ben Day, Warren Davis and his father, Fredric Soldwedel, all well known artists of their time. His formal training began at St. George's School in Rhode Island where he apprenticed under William Drury and John Frazier.

   Attending Yale University, Soldwedel received four Beaux Arts medals and was awarded a coveted scholarship to the American Academy in Rome. With such a background it is no wonder he "couldn't do anything better than paint."

   Soldwedel was not caught up in the modern art world of his time, although his friends included Hans Hofmann and Jackson Pollock.

As his skill improved he painted the world as he saw it and enjoyed the people that crossed his path.  A former king, several state governors, movie actors, glamorous ladies and fashionable people from all walks of life became his subjects.

   For twenty-two years he traveled, primarily painting portraits. However this was not to be his forte. As time went on he became more interested in the activities than the faces of his subjects. Their yachts, homes and sports were painstakingly portrayed by his active, accurate brush.

   Then in his seventies Soldwedel was asked if he planned to retire. He replied: "After my best work is accomplished...perhaps the next painting. I can only remember what's wrong with my last painting and how it can be improved!"

   He commented on his own standing in comparison to his early artistic acquaintances: "I used to wonder, after painting so many subjects and themes, where I stood in the field of the arts. I wasn't an illustrator, although I did several murals and some magazine work...and I certainly wasn't a modern of the times. It's ironic that way back in 1935 my first public exposure appeared as a center page spread in the March issue of Fortune Magazine. It was called 'The Six Day Bicycle Race' and was done while I was still a student at Yale. I thought then that I had it made., but it has taken over forty years to earn the recognition that really counts. 

"I can only remember

what's wrong with my

last painting and how

it can be improved!"
 

   "Of course, there may have been good reasons for this. At that time people had a desire to turn away from realism. They were trying to recover from a very real depression throughout the world. Abstract expressionism and modern fantasies were becoming the vogue, perhaps because reality was so difficult to bear. People were content to be told what was 'good art' and, if they were unable to understand what they saw, there was always a ready explanation, sometimes several."

   That is why, in preference to exhibitions in galleries, he turned to printing his own work for distribution through advertising, mail order and his legendary Ship Lore Gallery, 470 Park Avenue, New York. Soldwedel's maritime prints became immensely popular.

    They are also uniquely masterful works of art. Soldwedel was once told he was the greatest maritime artist in the world. His reply: "Well, not if you consider Montague Dawson!"

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