Sailing Vessels and steamboats, 1874
Son of the Italian painter Saverio Altamura and of the first Greek woman painter, Eleni Boukoura, Ioannis Altamouras continued his studies, after the Athens School of Fine Arts, with a scholarship at the Academy of Fine Arts of Copenhagen, where he served an apprenticeship with Soerensen as his professor. During his time there he came into contact with the new plein air and pre-Impressionist trends which made their appearance during the second half of the nineteenth century, and absorbed the features characteristic of them. He was the first Greek painter to concern himself exclusively with seascape. Views of the ports and coast of Denmark were the basic sources of his inspiration. As a member of the group of artists of the city of Skeen, he painted with them in the surrounding area, attempting, with them, to capture, by the direct observation provided by in situ painting the picture of a constantly mutating nature at a given moment in time. He distanced himself from any narrative description of the object and, thus liberated, studied the transformation of the atmosphere or of the sea through the alternations of light at the specific moment.
In Sailing Vessels and Steamboats, nature`s mutability, seen in the constantly moving clouds, the rippling surface of the sea, and the ship`s smoke being blown by the wind, is rendered through the light reflected on the waves and the foam. Although the painter did not take the final step of dissolving the bright tones and outlines of the ships, by liberating himself from detailed description and by fusing color and form, he arrived at the impression of a totality. By marking the precise date its execution on the painting, Altamouras wished to declare that this specific image corresponded to a given moment in time.