Art of the Sea

By Lynda Millner   |   January 7, 2021
The naval paintings by Arthur Beaumont chronicle accomplishments of the U.S. Navy

There is a wonderful art exhibit of 55 naval paintings at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum awaiting your visit as soon as lockdown is over and executive director Greg Gorga can unlock the doors. The exhibit was scheduled to open December 3, 2020 until May 30, 2021. It’s sponsored by George H. & Olive J. Griffiths Charitable Foundation, Mimi Michaelis, Alice Tweed Tuohy Foundation and Wood-Claeyssens Foundation.

“We were one of ten museums in the United States asked to participate and we are one of the top ten maritime museums in the United States,” Greg said of hosting the naval paintings.

Greg Gorga, the executive director of the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, which is exhibiting 55 naval paintings until May 2021

Obviously this is a proud accomplishment for the museum’s 20-year history. In normal times, the museum has more than 40,000 visitors annually and provides year-round maritime history and marine science education for local youth. The First-Order Fresnel Lighthouse Lens from Point Conception is especially impressive. It took several world experts months to clean the lens and ready it for exhibition.

The exhibit artist is Arthur Beaumont and his paintings chronicle accomplishments of the U.S. Navy, from the USS Constitution to atomic bomb tests and expeditions to the North and South poles. This is the last show on the West Coast before its departure to the East. Beaumont uses impressionist techniques in painting the stunning images, capturing the majesty of the oceans and the vessels that sail them.

Arthur Beaumont (1890-1978) was born in Norfolk County, England and came to the U.S. in 1908 to study art at Berkeley, before moving to Los Angeles and opening his first commercial art studio in 1917. After studying more and teaching art and watercolor painting, he received a commission as a lieutenant in the Navy and became the “Artist of the Fleet” by 1933. After Pearl Harbor his work supported the U.S. war effort and reflected dramatic life or death struggles in the Pacific. In 1944 he was given the official title of war correspondent.

Beaumont did three assignments as a correspondent for the Navy in the 1950s and ‘60s, painting frozen landscapes in Alaska and Antarctica

After World War II, Beaumont became the official artist for Operation Crossroads, documenting the Navy’s first tests of the nuclear bomb and continued to travel and paint for the Navy on missions to China and Japan. He also did work during the Korean War, in movies, and private and personal painting. He did three assignments for the Navy in the 1950s and ‘60s, painting frozen landscapes in Alaska and Antarctica.

Toward the end of his life he painted the RMS Queen Mary as it arrived in Los Angeles. He did a series of Revolutionary War-era sailing vessels and operations along the Mekong River during the Vietnam War.

After Pearl Harbor Beaumont’s work supported the U.S. war effort and reflected dramatic life or death struggles in the Pacific

My late husband was a carrier pilot, so my favorite paintings were showing the carriers launching airplanes off their deck – a small deck rolling in the waves and add night landings in the mix. Scary stuff. Many years ago my husband’s squadron invited the wives for a Powder Puff Cruise from Coronado, California. A rare treat! Sadly I was in his stateroom being seasick the whole day and never got to see the “show.”

In addition to the paintings there will be a book of Beaumont’s life and art written by Beaumont’s son Geoffrey Campbell Beaumont and published by the Irvine Museum. On January 21, 2021 the author will give a presentation about the exhibit and his father’s life.

Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is located in the Santa Barbara Harbor at 113 Harbor Way, Suite 190. For details visit or call (805) 962-8404. Hope to see you there soon.


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