The Trackless Sea, Oil on canvas, 1904

This work was completed by artist Warren Sheppard (1858-1937) circa 1904. Well-known for his ability to accurately capture the minutest of shipping and boating details, Sheppard was asked to illustrate for many newspapers during his lifetime. Born in 1858, Sheppard is an American Romantic Landscape painter whose work depicts seascapes and boating scenes. As such, Sheppard may be considered a late addition to a style that was beginning to dwindle in popularity during the height of his career. As a young man, Warren Sheppard learned the art of painting under the supervision of artist Mauritz Frederick de Haas, a mid-19th century Dutch-American marine painter. Likewise, Sheppard had been highly interested in naval life from a young age, and aside from painting he designed yachts and wrote two books on the subject of ocean navigation.

In The Trackless Sea, Sheppard embraces a concept at the center of all Romantic thought – the sublime. The sublime may be described as that which at once inspires a sense of awe and fear in the viewer, and in American Romantic Landscape painting this notion is often conveyed through the landscape or seascape itself. In the case of The Trackless Sea, the sun is shrouded in haze and rests near the horizon above the undulating waters of the ocean. Although the soft colors and relative calmness of the pre-sunset scene at first seem alluring, the mood here is also rooted fear. This fear lies in the perception of Mother Nature as an entity more powerful than man and therefore not to be underestimated.

In 1874 Sheppard began to exhibit his work at the Brooklyn Art Association. From 1880 until 1899, he exhibited at the Brooklyn Academy of the Arts in New York.