Marine artist James Edward Buttersworth was born in Middlesex County, England. He began his artistic career in England studying under his father Thomas, himself a respected marine artist. In 1847 Buttersworth immigrated to the United States, arriving in New York in the midst of the Golden Age of sail and steam. He busied himself chronicling the maritime world of New York Harbor from the time of his arrival from England until his death in New Jersey in 1894.
Buttersworth settled in West Hoboken, New Jersey and from 1850 to 1852 sold his work through the American Art Union in New York. The artist supplemented his income from the sale of paintings by working for Currier and Ives lithographers, providing them with paintings to be made into prints. Painting from subjects he observed in the waters off New York, Buttersworth recorded all types of vessels, from packet ships, steamships, clipper ships, and naval frigates, to harbor craft and racing yachts. A consummate draughtsman, he had an eye for meticulous detail and portrayed ships with great accuracy. But he also achieved a sense of drama with the use of low horizon lines, stormy skies, and tempestuous seas. His career spanned sixty years, producing about 600 ship portraits, comprising a significant contribution to the preservation of this colorful period in American maritime history. He painted America's Cup races as well as warships and historic naval actions, and was particularly adept at capturing the movement of sailing vessels, frequently portraying them from the diagonal and thus emphasizing a sense of speed and grace. He applied paint thinly, primarily in oil, and used a variety of grounds including canvas, millboard, wood panels, and metal.