In 2008, Mall Galleries art consultancy in London were asked by Hellespont chairman, Basil Ph Papachristidis, to find an artist to paint 21 of the marine transport provider’s ships. The gallery being home to the Royal Society of Marine Artists meant that they had a wealth of specialist artists to choose from, but it was John Lines RSMA who seemed to be the perfect fit for Hellespont.
At that point, Lines has been painting ships for over 55 years. With a penchant for ships, he was fascinated with the fact that these huge vessels were the largest man-made objects in the world and has made a career of painting them, on the dock and at sea. Like all marine artists worth their salt, Lines knows how to capture the sea, which way the wind is blowing in his paintings, to what angle these huge ships can rock on the waves and that the aerials protruding from the top are the hardest details to get right. Lines has stories of waiting in gale force winds for a ship to arrive only to find it changed course for a different port. He talks about being woken up and just making it off one shipping liner he was invited to stay in and paint before it left to Rotterdam. ‘These ships don’t wait’ he laughs, ‘And I didn’t have my passport!’.
Papachristidis’ commission was a whirlpool of energy. Twenty-one paintings in four months. It takes a day on site with each boat and longer in the studio. Hellespont were looking for technical accuracy and clarity. They were proud of their company, their ships and their industry and wanted to project that from their office walls across the globe. John Lines has talked of what an honor it was to work for Basil Ph Papachristidis ‘a man who knows his ships’ and Papachristidis in turn referred to him as the ‘perfect artist’ for this job. ‘There’s an element of match-making in there’ says Anna Bromwich, Commissions Consultant at Mall Galleries. ‘It’s all about finding the right artist for your client’s needs and interests’.
Mall Galleries art commissions range from ship portrayals like the Hellespont commission to a portrait of Stolt-Nielsen Ltd’s late CEO, Jacob Stolt-Nielsen and anywhere in-between. A still life such as Lucy McKie ROI’s beautiful shells resting on a cardboard box might evoke the shipping industry from a different angle whereas contemporary print-maker Dolores De Sade’s etchings explore the history of maritime exploration and discovery.
Fast forward a few years on from John Lines’ Hellespont commission and one of these paintings, Cavala, has been donated to the International Maritime Museum Hamburg. A much loved painting now becomes an educational tool and a historical document for future generations showing the added dimensions to commissioning works of art.