Jack Tar (The Lugger Sailing Dingy)
Jack Tar (The Lugger Sailing Dingy)
Jack Tar (The Lugger Sailing Dingy)

Jack Tar (The Lugger Sailing Dingy)

Grahame Sydney

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Grahame Sydney KNZM, ONZM (1948 –) was knighted for his service to the Arts in 2021.

To many his iconic images of the lower South Island represent a true New Zealand, the vast isolated land.

Sydney lives in a remote part of Central Otago. His home and studio look out to Dunstan mountains and beyond creating a vast every changing TV screen of the grand landscape. This world has been his inspiration for many years.

Self-trained, Sydney’s art practice over the last 5 decades includes work in oils,
watercolours, egg tempera, lithographs and photography. His is a representative painter. His work is characterised by the meticulous detail in the image, indicative or his years developing his craft and his skill with paint. Given this each work takes considerable time to complete and he has been quoted as saying he only manages to complete 6 works a year.

Sydney grew up in Dunedin and early mentors included Ralph Hotere and Michael Smither. While travelling overseas it was the work of the Dutch Masters particularly Vermeer that fascinated him. The surrealism of Salvador Dali left a lasting impression. His work has also been compared to the American painter Andrew Wyeth.

This work Jack Tar is one of only a few images of boats Sydney has painted. It is a picture of a Lugger sailing dingy. It is rare for one of these works to come up for sale. In this image the dingy has been fitted with sailing rigging. This work is a true representation of all the iconic parts of a Grahame Sydney image. The boat and sea are utterly realistic yet somehow by the simplicity of his composition he can create a hint of surrealism and mystery to the work.

History of the Lugger Sailing Dingy
Back in Port Chalmers, Dunedin, a couple of old beer loving sea-dogs in their 80’s were in the habit of regularly frequenting their local bar, to yarn and brag to each on their respective skills as boat builders and champion rowers. One of these guys was Jack Niewstub but the name of the other bloke has been lost to the mists of time.

The two guys challenged each other to an annual rowing race in various craft of their own creation. Around about 1970 Jack Niewstub won the race. This got the attention of Dunedin businessman Jack Shacklock, of Shacklock Stoves. He commissioned Niewstub to build him a replica of the race winning boat. Shacklock also had a business interest in the Dunedin fibreglass factory Gardeners and this firm took a very rough mould of Shacklock’s boat. Shacklock later retired and moved to Nelson, where he also became the first Commodore of the Tasman Bay Cruising Club. The year was about 1978.

Following discussions with Stuart Walker of Walker Marine, Shacklock got into talks with Grahame Sisson, the well-known kayak builder, who used to manufacture boats in Nelson. Shacklock decided he wanted a lighter dinghy, so he came to a deal with Sisson. Sisson would build Shacklock a new fibreglass hull in exchange for ownership of the rough mould and rights to the design.

Sisson was not too impressed with the planking of the original wooden boat, concluding that “the boat builder had been having too much Speights!” Sisson and his guys at Sisson Industries spent hundreds of man hours working on the plank-lines and making everything as it should be. So far only a rowing boat had been created but Stuart Walker's brother Ian took an interest and came up with a spritsail rig, similar to one that had caught his eye in the classic book Skiffs and Schooners by R D Cullen. Sisson and (in his words) “a group of fizz-boaters, with a little input from North Sails” came up with the original layout and sail- plan.
Despite realising that the boat wasn't a true “Lugger” Sisson and Stuart decided to brand the dinghy the Lugger. It was a name that reflected that the boat was made in Nelson and of a classic design.

During the 1980's about 200 hulls were produced with many ending up in Australia.
In the early 1990’s Sisson Kayaks (previously Sisson Industries) sold off all their non-kayak moulds and the Lugger mould was sold to Peter Smith, the founder of Richmond Fibreglass. From there the mould ended up with Walker Boatbuilding and was mothballed for a while. Today the Nelson Lugger is still in production.

Image Dimensions: 610mm W x 840mm H

Framing: Framed  

Framed Dimensions:  645mm W x 870mm H

Artwork Details

Title: Jack Tar (The Lugger Sailing Dingy)
Artist: Grahame Sydney
Date: 1995
Medium: Oil on linen
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