John S. Montague

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John Montague (American, 1944-) was born in 1944 in upstate New York but grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida. In addition to a 37 year college teaching career in art and design history he has also worked as a practicing designer, artist, illustrator and film animator. After arriving in Buffalo in 1984 to set up the History of Design program at Buffalo State, he played an active role in historic preservation and urban planning, serving for years on the Boards of the Preservation Coalition, Landmark Society, the City Preservation Board and various city planning commissions.

In 1988 with two colleagues in the Design Department John started the boat building program at Buffalo State. It soon evolved into the Center for Watercraft Studies, the Sea Fever Project, then The Buffalo Community Boating Center, and the Buffalo State College Maritime Center. More recently they broke away from Buffalo State College and are now known as the Buffalo Maritime Center of which John is the Executive Director. The Maritime Center allows him to pursue his life long passion for sailing and designing boats as well as his scholarly interests in the history of naval architecture. The Maritime Center has not only become a center for studying, building, and restoring boats but also an effective program for community outreach and waterfront development. As Director of the Maritime Center, a board member of the Buffalo Yacht Club and an architectural historian, he has been actively involved in the redevelopment of Buffalo’s waterfront. His recent focus on marine painting draws on this broad range of diverse interests, experiences, passions and skills.

“I have loved drawing since early childhood. One of my earliest recollections was our father supplying us with large rolls of news print. My brother and I would start drawing at opposite ends - usually great battle scenes! In the drawing process we would often trade places and rework and eventually destroy each other’s work. We spent hours using drawing as a competitive sport.”

In high school he started painting large 4’ x 5’ masonite panels of grandiose monumental subjects like ‘Napoleon’s Retreat from Russia', however, by the time he started college in the early sixties he opted to major in history and archaeology. Nevertheless he continued to draw and paint, and in the meantime began to do “portraits” of peoples’ homes. This not only provided terrifying lessons in perspective drawing under pressure but also developed into a thriving business, a business prosperous enough to pay his way to Oxford to study archaeology and travel in France and Germany. In graduate school he discovered Art History and went on to get a doctorate in French Medieval Architecture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His analytical drawing skills became essential tools in his research on medieval mason’s geometry. In fact, his final dissertation included over 2,000 drawings of French Romanesque sculptured ornament measured and drawn on site of over 300 medieval churches and monasteries. While in the midst of his medieval studies he was inspired by the beginnings of the film studies movement centered at the University and subsequently threw himself into animation and experimental film. In addition to producing a conventional but partially animated film “The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright”, he began a film animation program at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater which he would run for the next ten years. While continuing to study medieval design, art and technology and developing the foundations for design history, he taught figure drawing, anatomy and perspective in Wisconsin, Denmark and England before coming to Buffalo. His perspective and architectural rendering courses culminated in the publication of his book Basic Perspective Drawing, first published in 1984 (Van Nostrand) and now entering its 5th edition (John Wiley Spring of 2009). In addition to his two books on boat building he has written numerous articles and papers on a wide range of subjects.

“My current painting projects are appropriately focused on maritime subjects which allow me to draw upon both my historical and aesthetic interests. I am particularly fascinated by the long neglected maritime history of the Great Lakes. Some of my drawings and paintings are boats which I have designed, built, owned or used. Others are carefully researched historical reconstructions and visualizations of the lost realities.”

To visit the The Buffalo Maritime Center website, please follow the

"It is the Maritime Center's mission to study and celebrate the rich maritime heritage of the Niagara Frontier and to encourage and promote public access to the area's historic waterfront and waterways."

Buffalo Maritime Center
90 Arthur Street
Buffalo, NY 14207
Museum/Boatshop: (716) 881-0111

Hours, open to the public:
Tuesdays - Saturdays: 10:00-5:00pm
Saturdays: 9:00-Noon

(Source: Bio from John S. Montague, 06/2008; the Buffalo Maritime Center brochure.)