Julian Oliver Davidson (1853-1894) was the son of a civil engineer, and as a child made five voyages to Cuba with his father, who was supervising the construction of the Havana railroad. On the last of these trips, he was shipwrecked in a severe storm; the incident inspired his lifelong interest in the sea. He apprenticed with his father's New York City firm as a surveyor and draughtsman, but he preferred drawing ships in the harbor and at 17 shipped out on an old-fashioned side-wheeler steamship traveling to the Orient by way of the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal. He assisted the engineer, ship’s boy, and storekeeper, and returned with paintings and journals filled with sketches of sails, rigging, and sailing ships. He studied at the studio of Mauritz de Hass at the famed Tenth Street Studio Building, where he met Winslow Homer, Frederick Church, William Bradford, and Albert Bierstadt. He was prolific and skilled, and Harper’s alone published several hundred of his illustrations. In his day he was known as one of America’s leading marine painters and illustrators.
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