How one Ulster artist viewed the Titanic in 1912
Arnold Gardiner is one of Northern Ireland's most prominent painters of ships and maritime scenes. Working in watercolours, he has painted everything from off shore drilling platforms to the QE II. But a century ago maritime scenes here were the speciality of Joseph William Carey and he painted the only contemporary image of the Titanic before she sank. For Arnold it is an understated but moving way of looking at the ship.
In 1912 Carey completed “Holywood Golf Links”, a watercolour view of Holywood Golf Club from the top of a hill looking down on one of the greens and with the sweep of Belfast Lough in the background. Today this club is better known as the home of champion golfer Rory McIlroy and the view has changed considerably with little of the water visible beyond the reclaimed land that now makes up the airport named after another champion, George Best.
But in Carey’s painting the Titanic can be clearly seen nestling among the gantries of the shipyard. It is a relatively small detail within the painting yet it is placed right at its centre with a group of golfers in the foreground looking towards it. Carey showed the Titanic in the context of the place she was from and gives us a sense of her powerful presence in the landscape - even next to the hills towering over the lough.
Arnold believes the power of “Holywood Golf Links” today comes from the fact that the scene is so serene. We view it with the knowledge of the terrible disaster that was to come all too soon.