Brothers and co-owners Peter and Phil Kiernan opened the space at 26 Atlantic Ave. just weeks ago, and they have already sold some paintings. One cyclist saw Sergio Roffo's "Cape Dunes" while he was riding by and purchased it immediately. The painting shows a calm pale ocean framed by a lavendar sky and two large grassy dunes. Another man traveled from Taiwan to look at a Jack Gray painting - he has bought from them before.
The gallery is a miniature museum, featuring nautical scenes painted by 19th-century and contemporary artists from around the world. "We really love what we do," said Peter Kiernan.
The brothers' father, Russell Kiernan, started the gallery in 1968. He loved marine art and started collecting his own paintings while the family lived in Beverly, where the brothers grew up. They all had their own sailboats, but none of them were artists. "We can't paint or draw, but we appreciate anybody that can," said Kiernan.
Just walking around the gallery and talking with the owners, visitors can learn a lot about notable marine artists. See works by Anthony Thieme (1888-1954) and Emile Gruppe (1896-1978), who were in the Rockport Cape Ann school, which includes artists who painted that area in the 1920s and 1930s. Gruppe was influenced by the French Impressionists, particularly Monet. His painting "The Smelt Fishermen" shows fishermen at a pastel-colored harbor with warm orange accents, and many colors in between.
There are works by contemporary artists John Stobart - namesake of the Kensington-Stobart Gallery at the Hawthorne Hotel - and Richard K. Loud, both celebrated marine painters. There's even an Andrew Wyeth watercolor of a man on a boat called "The Lobsterman." But Kiernan favors two small paintings in the corner by English artist James E. Buttersworth (1817-1894). He said Buttersworth's art "would be considered the very best" of marine antique paintings. The works depict yacht races; one in New York Harbor and one showing the Galatea and the Mayflower.
"I like the yachting aspect," Kiernan said. "They're little jewels."
The paintings were acquired a couple months ago from a house in Maine where they lived for 70 years. Each costs more than $100,000. There are a few pieces in the Marine Arts Gallery that are not ocean scenes. See tiny trompe l'oeils by French artist Marina Dieul of a pink-eared mouse peeking out from its hole. One whimsical painting by Ralph Cahoon (1910-1982) called "Nantucket Sled Ride" shows topless mermaids with black fins and pearl necklaces sledding with a group of Natucket natives wearing coats and scarves as the snow falls.
There are about 75 paintings in the Gallery, and several hundred more in storage in Salem. The Kiernans also had a gallery location in Naples, Fla. for more than 20 years, but closed it two years ago. They plan to reopen it again this fall under the same name. Art lovers can also come to the Gallery for marine painting appraisals. Hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.