clarence leslie oursler vanished steamboats

Solomons, MD – Steamboats were once a familiar site on the Chesapeake Bay and provided rural tidewater areas a lifeline to Baltimore, Norfolk, and Washington, D.C. Vanished Steamboats: The Maritime Art of C. Leslie Oursler, beautifully captures the spirit of a bygone age through several art mediums. The exhibit is on display in the museum’s Mezzanine Gallery now through the end of December.

Vanished Steamboats offers a thoughtful perspective of Oursler’s lifework – not only in paintings, but also in sketches, drawings, ship’s models, and ceramics. As a backdrop for the artworks, museum muralist Tim Scheirer created a 36’ image of one of Oursler’s drawings. The exhibit includes a graphic explanation of how he took a 36” drawing and created a 36’ mural, illustrating each step in the process.

Clarence Leslie Oursler (1913-1987), a self-taught Maryland artist had a passion for painting ships, seascapes, and waterside scenes of the Chesapeake Bay region. Oursler painted over 180 marine works during his career and the Calvert Marine Museum is fortunate to curate the largest collection of his works dating from 1967 to 1986. The exhibit explores the changes in the artist’s painting techniques from his realistic portrayals at the height of his career to a more impressionistic approach to painting in his later years.

For generations, steamboats affected the way people traveled, earned a living, and socialized around the bay. Vanished Steamboats depicts the beauty of these vanished icons with selected works from the museum’s collection, along with items loaned for the exhibit by steamboat historian and guest curator, Jack Shaum.

Jack Shaum, a Baltimore native and veteran reporter who worked in print and broadcast journalism, met Oursler in the 1960’s through their shared interest in steamboats. They became good friends and Shaum began collecting the artist’s works. His love for steamboats and his journalism career allowed Shaum to profile the artist on several occasions. He was guest curator for CMM’s first C. Leslie Oursler exhibit in 1991 and spoke at the private opening of this new exhibit on May 6. Speaking about Oursler’s work, Shaum said: “His work deserves to be better known and it’s wonderful that the museum has so many of his paintings. This exhibit is a very good cross-section of his work.”

C. Leslie Oursler’s artwork also appears in the collections of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, The Mariners’ Museum, the Maryland Historical Society, the Steamship Historical Society of America, and the Steamboat Era Museum, as well as in many privately held collections.

The museum will host a lecture series around the Vanished Steamboats exhibit in the fall of 2016. Jack Shaum, guest curator and steamboat historian, will return on Thursday, September 8, to share his stories about the artist and his works. Ralph Eshelman, local historian and former CMM director, will talk about steamboats in Southern Maryland on Thursday, October 6. On Thursday, November 10, Pete Lesher, Curator of Maritime History at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, will talk about steamboats in the Chesapeake.