Anne and her friends
Centre de l’Imaginaire Arthurien
Official Navy Painters
Women of the Seas
Wearing overalls, a hard hat and security boots Anne Smith melts into the landscape of the dockyards of Europe. Just another worker wielding the tools of her trade like many others on the site, but unlike the majority she insists that her surroundings are beautiful.
The paintings of Anne Smith are frank, expressive and clever. Her sincerity combined with a solid technical know how make them immediately accessible.
Immersed in the closed (security obliges) universe of the quays, Anne Smith paints with obstinacy on site, surrounded by sailors on shore leave, dockers, scaffolding, cranes and ships, a witness of the maritime culture of our times.
Photo Mélanie Denniel
My work, my passion!
The world of the sea
It was at the port of Brest in France that I really discovered the ocean and those of the sea.
I went for a week-end and ended-up staying. Becoming a prowler of dry docks, shores, islands, constantly in action, painting merchant ships, the industrial world, seascapes, sculpting people in action, at work.
Appointed Official Painter for the Navy (Peintre official de la Marine) in 2005, I went to find the other side of the horizon onboard their ships. When outdoors I find the subjects energy in my work.
Photo Mélanie Denniel
Why the dreamlike?
Earning ones living through Art requires intense work.
I like to give myself a bit of a break at Comper Castle in the forest of Brocéliande in Brittany, France home of the Center of Imagination Arthurien.
There, where imagination and reality live in harmony, the fruits of my imagination have room to flower and anything is possible.
By Merlin! It’s magic !
What is an Official Navy Painter?
After the French revolution, the young Republic of France took unique decisions. One of them, taken in 1830 remains surprising: It invested its modern Navy with a Corps… of artists!
Almost two hundred year later this corps of ‘official’ artists is as dynamic as ever, offering even greater diversity than at its creation. Named the Peintres officiels de la Marine (and more familiarly the POM) it enjoys the prestige of its past masters whilst ensuring its future renown with talent and dynamism; Professional illustrators, engravers, painters, sculptors and photographers and filmmakers all enthuse the public by their marine art.
An integral part of today’s Navy, the POMs benefit from a singular status. Accredited Peintre officiel de la Marine by the Minister of Armed Forces for an initial period of three years they are given one of the twenty places available with the grade of lieutenant. They work in close contact with navy personnel, voluntarily embarking on the oceans of the world, whilst remaining free to choose the subject of their art, the way they depict it and the rights. Despite their rank and uniform, worn for ceremonies and special events, the POM are not military personnel. They are not paid a salary and do not receive orders. Their only obligation is to show a recent work at the navy’s biannual exhibition the Salon de la Marine an event that’s open to both French artists and those abroad, held at the National Maritime Museum (opposite the Eiffel Tower) in Paris. (The next Salon de la Marine is programmed for 2024/5, the selection date will be posted on the site of the museum and also here on this site).
A jury, consisting of representants of the Marine National, the Merchant Navy, the Government, National museums and other various invigilators of culture in France, chooses firstly the works that will be exhibited. Once the show is hung the same jury then chooses laureates for prizes and then new POM. All candidates for the title POM must be French and have deposited a portfolio of 20 photographs of recent work with their CV and a letter explaining their motivation for the title at the Museum before the selection date. These portfolios are kept subsequently in the archives, those of the new POMs being regularly updated because the jury reassesses approved POMs every three years. After a minimum of nine approved years one can become titular, with the rank of Lieutenant Commander, keeping this qualification for life.
In 2022 there are 41 POM who devote their talent to seafarers and the sea in general. Exhibiting frequently, both alone and in groups at galleries and in the museums of both France and abroad their work incites greater admiration and understanding of the world’s oceans and the way humanity connects to them.