Home Again:Newly Restored Flying Cloud Painting Recently Unveiled

By John Lynds

A close up of the refurbished Flying Cloud painting that depicts the famed 19th Century Clippership built by Donald McKay in East Boston.

During a special event last week at the East Boston Branch of the Boston Public Library,  the neighborhood’s Friends of the Library (FOL) unveiled the newly restored Frederick Leonard King painting ‘The Flying Cloud’ that depicts the famed 19th Century Clippership built by Donald McKay in East Boston.

The restoration of the King painting that is part of a group of historic paintings commissioned during the President Roosevelt-era Works Progress Administration (WPA) project in 1935 was funded by a National Endowment of the Arts grant as well as the East Boston Foundation.

The series of King painting entitled ‘Ships Through the Ages’ once hung in the former Meridian Street Library and are now on rotation at the Bremen Street branch.

“I am so glad that The Flying Cloud is home again,” said Chair of the FOL’s Art Restoration Committee Susan Brauner. “The ship, having been built here, is such a part of our maritime history. I encourage everyone to come over to the branch to see it – the cleaned up vibrancy is amazing. The restoration was funded by the National Endowment for The Arts and the East Boston Foundation. The frame’s refurbishment was paid for by the Boston Public Library.  We are appreciative to all of them.”

East Boston Foundation Executive Director Lorene Schettino added that, “Through the efforts of the Friends of the East Boston Library the paintings will remain a treasure for the the East Boston Community. The East Boston Foundation is proud to be part of the restoration efforts.”

There were 20 paintings in the series with five on display at the Bremen Street Branch, 10 are currently in storage at the Copley Library and five, sadly, are missing.

“To complete the series the Friends of The Library would like to locate or find the last five in the series,” said Brauner. “They are federal property–WPA art is always on loan and not given to an institution–and we would like to be good stewards.”

The five missing are the following:

  • Cog – 12th Century. The cog was a kind of early ship, broad with bluff prow and stern, sometimes used as a fishing boat. This type was used by Madoc of Wales in his legendary trip to America  to establish a colony in America.
  • Mayflower and Arbella – 15th Century.  These were part of The Winthrop Fleet that brought the Pilgrims to New England.  The Arbella was the flagship.
  • La Salle’s Griffon – 17th Century. This vessel is of interest because it was one of the first to be built on the Great Lakes. LaSalle used her for exploring and trading.
  • John Paul Jones’ Bon Homme Richard – 18th Century. Jones is “The Father of the American Navy”. A well know quote is “I have not yet begun to fight!” during a sea battle in 1779.
  • Modern Grain Ship – (Date not known). This ship is over one thousand feet long, her engines are 200,000 horsepower.

Through Brauner’s relationship with the The First Church in Boston on Marlborough Street, a minister there has offered to pick up the paintings if they are discovered. According to Brauner the minister will offer full confidentiality and no questions asked. All the person simply has to do is call the church at  (617) 267-6730 and leave a message to arrange for pick up.

Last week’s unveiling included a performance by “A Touch of Class Singers” led by Ed Meradith that was followed by a reading by actress Kathleen Monteleone of John Masefield’s ‘Sea Fever”. Then local historian Roberta Marchi gave a lecture  on the maritime history of East Boston.

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