The Clipper Ship Painting

Oil and tempera on canvas, 8'x 4'
Kevin Unick '73
The large framed oil painting hanging in the stairwell of Xaverian’s front entrance is the work of Kevin Unick, Class of 1973.
While attending the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, Kevin was asked by his alma mater to create a large painting of a clipper ship, the school’s “mascot,” the mighty sailing vessels which the Xaverian Brothers selected as the emblem of their newest and most technologically advanced school, located prominently in New York Harbor.

During the mid-nineteenth century "Clippers" were a class of sailing ship that captured the spirit, adventure, and romance of the growing nation. Built for speed, clippers were long and narrow, with sweeping bows, graceful lines, and tall canvas sails square rigged on three tall masts reaching as high as 130’ – the height of a 12-story building! Beginning in the 1840s, clipper ships sailed all over the world, primarily on the trade routes between the United Kingdom and its colonies in the east. American clippers with names such as Flying Cloud, Sea Witch, Great Republic, responded to the China trade and the California Gold Rush of 1949 which prompted a New York-to-San Francisco route around Cape Horn. Though carrying bulk freight, their average speed was 16 knots, with speeds as high as 22 knots (25 mph) were recorded.

The artist, Kevin Unick ’73, recalls, “As a freshman at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, I was contacted by Xaverian regarding the creation of a large painting depicting the school "mascot," a nineteenth century clipper sailing ship.”
“The painting was to have the title "Smooth Seas Never." Using images of historic clipper ships as inspiration, I provided sketches of a vessel entering the Narrows as seen from the Brooklyn shoreline. The ship exits the stormy, dark ocean, and enters the safety of New York harbor in breaking light. The theme symbolizes Xaverian, providing the safe passage from the tempest and uncertainty of life into the light and safety that education provides an individual.” 
“I hand stretched the canvas and custom mixed the oil paints myself. A labor of love and a daunting task, I expected to complete the work within three months, but schoolwork, a part-time job and other distractions delayed the completion 18 months. It was delivered in 1975.”

Kevin was a member of Xaverian’s Track Team, Dramatics Society, Stage Crew, and was a staff artist for the Clipper yearbook. A graduate of the prestigious School of Visual Arts in NYC, Kevin entered the New York City Police Dept. Earning his stripes on patrol in some of the city’s then most notorious precincts (the 81, 83 and 46) at the time, Kevin went on to a 32-year career, retiring as a one-star Deputy Chief out of Brooklyn North. Kevin and his wife Laurie now reside in the quiet of upstate New York.


Established in 1957, Xaverian is one of thirteen schools nationwide sponsored by the Xaverian Brothers.