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Peter Layne Arguimbau, a Master of Marine Painting

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As coincidences go, a dinner host was showing me his marine art collection the night before the Mariner Gallery was having their big summer opening. But it was when this host mentioned a desire to identify an artist who could capture his view of boats in Third Beach Cove that I knew I would be introducing him to Peter Layne Arguimbau.

Photo Credit: Cene Urbina

While the descriptives “American painter, restorer and historian of classical art” capture the breadth of Peter’s interests, what it doesn’t touch upon is that which puts Peter in a league unto himself — a lifelong pursuit of the rich and luminescent painting technique of the Flemish masters (think Rembrandt, Rubens and Vermeer) during the Golden Age of Art.

“Tall Class off Fort Adams”

Peter is quite passionate in his pursuit of mastering this finely regarded 17th century painting technique (whose formula the Renaissance artists took to their graves) spending  many years of trial and error, including a decade spent testing recipes from medieval manuscripts with restorer Pierro Mannoni. One note that sets Peter apart from his fellow artists is that he continues to make his art supplies from raw materials, starting fresh each day… grinding his colors from powdered pigments and “cooking” his mediums to create luminous, three dimensional effects. I am forever in awe of his skies and clouds…

“The Mariette” off the Needles, Isle of Wight, 2001.

The focus of his life’s work has been applying his skill through his love of the sea, producing masterpieces of America’s Cup contenders…

“Shamrock off Castle Hill”

And seascapes from New York to San Francisco.

“Brooklyn Bridge, New York Harbor”

But his most frequent subjects are the myriad types of sailing vessels to be found in New England harbors.

“Catboat Regatta at Indian Harbor Yacht Club”

It was this specifically which earned him the distinction of being one of a very few artists to have a show at both the New York Yacht Club on West 44th Street as well as Harbour Court, the Yacht Club’s outpost in Newport. Masterminded by Admiral Tom Weschler, this quickly led to one of his most ambitious and high profile commissions…creating a painting that would become  the 2007 “Tall Ships Newport” poster. Needless to say, the posters sold out and the oil painting itself was auctioned off with 800 guests in attendance the evening of the Tall Ships Ball, held at The Breakers; the winning bid was $25,000.

“Tall Ships, Newport”

A more recent commission was for Houstonians, Kim and Dan Tutcher, who wanted a scene of their favorite view in Newport Harbor — capturing the waterfront with Trinity church on the left and St. Mary’s church on the right — with a slight 19th century feel. The final personal touch? A cameo appearance of their Hinckley picnic boat (lower left).

Peter Layne Arguimbau’s commitment to historical art also includes architecture, as seen in his restoration of a 1760 colonial home for his Newport gallery. While his main studio has been in an 1850’s barn in Greenwich, Connecticut, the Mariner Gallery will be Peter’s acknowledgement of the importance of Newport as a marine center for over three centuries. With his son Andre’, Peter has dedicated over two years to this preservation project. In addition to restoring the post-and-beam construction and wide plank floors of the main floor, Andre’, a captain himself, built a lower deck of solid oak (grown and milled on Peter’s Greenwich property). Now named the USS Constellation Room, the room is constructed to honor the second warship built for the U.S. Navy.

Not all of Peter’s works are framed and hanging on a wall (note: he adds his own hand-finishes to his frames to enhance his artistry); tall screens are just another example of how fine art can be used to contribute to the ambiance of a room.

You’ll want to join Peter at Mariner Gallery (267 Spring Street, Newport RI) on Thursday, September 14th at 7 PM for his lecture on “Luminism: Last Renaissance Movement in America.”

Featured Image Credit, “Classic Class off Castle Hill, Newport” Oil by Peter Arguimbau.

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About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

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