Ecosmopolitan Encounters in The Circum-Polar Contact Zone,

or Turner in the City of Culture

Jason Edwards

University of York

In this paper, I want to ponder the historiographic status of Turner’s Whalers in the context of Hull, in its year as the UK Capital of Culture in 2017, and in the context of its local school of painters, primarily by thinking about (e)cosmopolitan encounters in two little-known paintings in the collections of the Hull Maritime Museum, coining a neologism, “ecosmopolitan encounters”, with the ‘e’ and ‘eco’ to emphasise both human and other ecological participants in the Arctic contact zone.[1] My pair of canvases emerged from the so-called Hull School of artists at some point around the first half of the nineteenth century, but probably closer to its middle decades.[2] My examples are A Whaling Brigg, attributed to James H. Wheldon,[3] and the unattributed S.S. Emma. Whilst the pair have been consigned to the stores for much of their lives, and have no provenance, following a German air raid on Hull during the Second World War, A Whaling Brigg formed part of the Turner and the Whale exhibition at the Hull Maritime Museum in Autumn 2017. I want to explore the pictures in the context of what I’ve come to think about as the Victorian circum-polar world, a phrase derived from Whitby whaler William Scoresby junior,[4] and in the broader context of ideas of art historical provincialism, cosmopolitanism, and imperialism, as well as theorisations of global, world, and capitalist-world-systemic history and art history.[5]

In order to do that, I want to lay my cards on the table from the outset. I don’t think that these two pictures are especially good examples of nineteenth-century British marine painting.[6] But, considered historiographically, that’s partly what makes them interesting, and not just because they encourage us to think further about what Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick has called the poignant, but possible “middle ranges of agency”; which is to say, about artworks fashioned at a significant degree below the exceptional technical and conceptual bravura of supposed art historical geniuses that currently dominate nineteenth-century art historiography.[7]

To date, the Hull School has received little scholarly attention. When its painters have been examined, they have been characterized as the poor, provincial cousins of the obviously more metropolitan, cosmopolitan, and avant-garde Turner, the nation’s most significant marine painter, according to just about everyone.[8] For example, Barry Venning has argued that Turner’s whaling quartet was “far more ambitious than anything produced by the Hull school; for he sought to embrace the British whaling industry as a whole by treating the Pacific fishery in 1845 and its Arctic counterpart in the following year”;[9] although Turner was not the only painter to treat both the Atlantic and Pacific fisheries. Hull painter John Ward’s oeuvre also includes Whalers of the South Sea Fishery.[10] Similar patterns emerge in scholarship more generally on British marine painting. For example, Eleanor Hughes acknowledges that, because of its focus on the “maritime-metropolitan nexus” of Greenwich, her 2016 survey exhibition of British maritime art, “of necessity focuses on painting in London rather than the rich traditions that flourished in other maritime centres, such as Bristol, Liverpool, Hull, and colonial Boston”.[11]

But, as Sedgwick reminds us, what we think of as the provincial, urbane and worldly inhere less in objects themselves, than in our perceptions of them. Thus, according to Sedgwick, whilst ideas of the worldly, urbane, and provincial masquerade as “flatly descriptive” attributions attached to a person or object, the adjectives describe and create a “chain of perceptual angels”, marking the “cognitive privilege” of a speaker “who through that attestation” - of the provincial and to being cosmopolitan - “lays claim” to a “more inclusive angle of cognitive distancing and privilege” over the object in question and the world more generally.[12] In the case of the Hull pictures, then, when we characterise the canvases as being provincial, in comparison with Turner, we lay claim to both Turner’s, and our own, metropolitan and cosmopolitan sophistication.

But, as Joseph Litvak has observed, there is nothing more provincial than pointing to someone or something else’s provinciality, and little more revealing of insecure cultural distinction, in Bourdieu-an terms.[13] So, in characterizing the Hull School as provincial, scholars have revealed their own provinciality as much as the supposed provinciality of the regional painters, although, to follow Litvak’s argument to its logical conclusion, my own attribution of provinciality to maritime-metropolitan art history’s attribution of provinciality to the Hull School painters, is itself, inescapable provincial; although it should be noted that Hughes, if not Venning, in fact emphasises, even as her exhibition marginalizes, the “rich tradition” of regional marine painters.

Figure 1

Fig. 1: Unknown artist, SS Emma (c.1855-1863) oil on canvas, 64.5 x 95 cm, KINCM:2007.2282, Hull Maritime Museum

Figure 2

Fig. 2: Peter Breughal the Elder, Hunters in the Snow (1565), oil on canvas, 117 x 162 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum

Now this is a Russian doll-like logic that the painter of the S.S. Emma understood well (Fig. 1). In the picture’s repoussoir foreground is an Inuit figure surveying the scene, harpoon in hand, who stands in for the viewer, in some complex ways. If so, then the picture suggests that the spectator’s encounter with the Arctic scene is akin to the Inuit’s. But what does it mean for a Victorian viewer, and a regional spectator in Hull at that - since most of the Hull School pictures were commissioned, viewed, bought, and sold, in the city, rather than at the Royal Academy or British Institution in London - to be identified with a marginal beholder, both within the picture, and as considered from a still dominant Euro-American, circum-Atlantic perspective?[14] On the one hand, the picture might conflate the two types of regional marginality, Hull and the Arctic, especially since Hull’s economic fortunes were tightly braided with the circum-polar world, as the whaling capital of Britain in the period between roughly 1760 and 1860,[15] and since, with the exception of Ward, no Hull School artist exhibited at either the Royal Academy or British Institution.[16] On the other hand, the picture might make a more flattering comparison, with the marine and Arctic whaling empire of the earlier Dutch Republic, just across the North Sea from Hull. I make this claim because the Dutch famously preceded the British in the actual circum-polar waters and in depictions of Arctic whaling there. In addition, and to signal that continuity, perhaps, the Inuit figure recalls the foreground hunter, with his right arm raised, spear in hand, in Breughal the Elder’s epoch-defining 1565 snow scene, Hunters in the Snow, just as Wheldon’s polar bear, at bottom left, similarly recalls the slender, bowed, head-down form of Breughal’s hounds. (Fig. 2).

But does the S.S. Emma identify the Hull viewer with the Inuit figure? Or, rather, anticipating Sedgwick and Litvak’s Russian-doll logics, does the canvas establish the Inuit viewer as a pictorially marginal, geopolitically provincial perspective, in contrast to the Hull spectator’s? After all, the Inuit figure is not so much identified with the viewer’s gaze as included within the more cosmopolitan spectator’s perspective; a beholder who both sees the scene, as an Inuit might see it, but who also sees the Inuit man within the scene, and who also beholds it, as a cosmopolitan European might, simultaneously recalling Breughal? And, if so, to what extent does it make sense to think about such complex, referential Hull school pictures as being provincial in the first place? They might emerge from a regional centre, and were probably never seen outside of it, but Hull was a very particular provincial hub in the period, and marine painting was anything but a provincial genre, whatever Royal Academy president Sir Joshua Reynolds might have had to say about it.[17]

Figure 3

Fig. 3: Abraham Storck, Whaling Grounds in the Arctic Ocean (c.1656-1708), oil on canvas, 50.5 cm x 66.5 cm, Rikjsmuseum, Amsterdam: SK-A-4102; Public Domain

Figure 4

Fig. 4: James H. Wheldon, A Whaling Brigg (date unknown), 57 x 75 cm, oil on canvas, KINCM:2007.1320, Hull Maritime Museum

After all, Hull was the capital of Arctic whaling, in the first half of the nineteenth century, before Dundee became dominant in the 1860s, beating even London in significance.[18] And the pictures of the Hull School depict a geographical region, not immediately surrounding the city, as in the more provincial Breughal, but half a hemisphere away in the Arctic. That said, snow scenes were becomingly increasingly recognized as festively British, in the mid-nineteenth century, following the publication, in 1843, of Charles Dickens’s epoch-making Christmas Carol; and given that Britain, like the Low Countries, was only then just emerging from a mini-ice-age; the subject of intense geological speculation in the period.[19]

In addition, marine painting, that supposedly most provincially British of genres, one uniquely identified with our so-called island nation, and one far removed from Reynolds’s preferred Mediterranean-world, continental grand-style of grand-tour history painting, was anything but originally British. The genre, and Arctic whaling imagery as a subgenre within it, as we learn from Abraham Storck’s Whaling Grounds in the Arctic Ocean (1708), just like Breughal’s snowy hunt scenes, were first invented by the Dutch, and brought to British shores by the Van der Veldes in the 1670s.[20] (Fig. 3).

In addition, it is worth briefly pausing over that phrase the ‘island nation’, since the island that I find myself upon, as I write, in fact contains three nations: England, Scotland and Wales; and since the United Kingdom, which also included Ireland in the nineteenth century, following the Act of Union of 1801, is not one island, but at least two, if not a veritable archipelago, given the presence of the Isle of Wight, Isle of Man, and Shetland, Hebrides, and Orkneys. This is a fractious, tessellating archipelagic structure well understood by Wheldon’s cartographic, carefully coastally-profiled picture, with what looks a little like an Ireland or Scotland floating in the off-left centre, and with the jigsaw-like, near frozen shores able both to pull apart, and lock back together, just like the United Kingdom. (Fig. 4).

If the Hull paintings, then, are misread as provincial from the imperious, self-regarding perspective of the Greenwich-centred, metropolitan-maritime complex, that might be because they have an assertively different centre of gravity from the Thames; one somewhere in the North Sea between Hull and Amsterdam. In addition, both Hull and Amsterdam are surrounded by flat-land, big-sky, littoral landscapes that bear a remarkable resemblance to one another. As a result, the genre the Hull marine painters employ might mark an affinity with, as well as a debt to, canonical, earlier Dutch-Republic examples. They might, however, also exemplify a world-systemic historical shift from the seventeenth- and earlier eighteenth-century dominance of the Dutch in the Arctic whaling trade, to the late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century dominance of the British; or, to be more precise, the English, since Hull’s status as the centre of Arctic whaling would be eclipsed, at mid-century, by Dundee, as we have seen, even if the Scottish port never generated its own parallel school of marine painters.[21]

All that said, however, our Inuit spectator might still look like a provincial, marginal figure in the historiographically dominant, wider circum-Atlantic and imperial, rather than circum-polar, worlds, as understood by the early-twenty-first-century academy. After all, Anglo-Inuit relations remain the poor, provincial cousin, historiographically speaking, compared with the more sustained and currently central analyses of the black, white, and red Atlantic worlds, given events involving statues of confederate generals across the contemporary southern states of America, and the controversy over oil pipelines in North Dakota.[22] In addition, Anglo-Arctic relations have similarly failed to accrue the cultural capital accorded to British forms of long-nineteenth-century Orientalism, with their own dominant Indocentrism; a state of affairs unlikely to be much altered as we approach the 40th anniversary of the first publication of Edward’s Said’s epoch-making Orientalism (1978) in 2018.[23]

However, reading even a smattering of nineteenth-century accounts of Anglo-Inuit encounters quickly reveals that there was nothing marginal about either the Inuit or the Arctic.[24] If anything, the Arctic was a highly cosmopolitan zone in the long nineteenth century, with Greenland remaining a Danish settler colony in the period, with a history stretching back to an extensive North Sea world a millennium earlier, and Arctic Canada being hotly contested by the English, French, and indigenous populations. Indeed, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that our supposedly marginal Inuit figure, might have spoken a number of regionally-diverse dialects of Inuk;[25] and, like a European cosmopolitan, a smattering of English, French, and Danish.

I mean cosmopolitan here to signal both a linguistic and cultural fluency, and a precise conceptual space that encompasses more than two, but less than the total number of global countries.[26] And I think this is a particularly helpful conceptual space because it challenges an art history that has been dominated, to date, by a conceptually graspable, bipolar methodology focused on, in the British case, the Anglo-French, Anglo-American, Anglo-Indian, or Anglo-Ottoman worlds; and a more difficult to grasp, supposedly global art history which claims to consider the entire planet, but mostly focuses on a selective mosaic of radically fewer prestigious countries and regions within it.

But is cosmopolitan the best word for our Inuit beholder? Or does the suggestion of cultural distinction that that word entails mask a more depressing account of the uneven imperial relations that he and the entire region was embedded in? After all, nineteenth-century Britons mostly went to the Arctic for two reasons. In the days before the Suez Canal, they were intent on finding a North-west passage to India, and before that, to Arctic Russia, as well as China, and Japan. And they were in search of Arctic commodities central to the British economy. This took the form of whale, walrus, and seal oil that lubricated industrial machinery and lit candles and streets; animal pelts fashionable as rugs and clothing; and Narwhal ivory central to British trade with China.

The Inuit were central to all of this. It was they who knew best the contours of the unmapped coasts and landscape, and how to survive, and especially to over-winter, in it. These were skills that were increasingly central as British whalers were forced to go ever further north and in land, in search of the ever-fewer remaining live animals; and who had to arrive earlier, and to stay later, in the region, because of increasing competition from American whalers. As a result, British whalers, such as the Diana of Hull, found themselves frequently trapped in the northern autumn ice, and it was only those whalers in contact with the Inuit who were likely to survive the long winters there.[27]

In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, the Inuit are largely absent from the Hull School pictures. Indeed, out of the seventy or so surviving canvases of the region’s painters, in the Hull Maritime Museum collections, concerned with Arctic whaling, precisely two contain any clear Inuit presence: A Whaling Brigg and the S.S. Emma.[28] This strongly suggests that, despite the frequent contact between Hull whalers and the Inuit in the period, the Hull School painters were mostly keen to emphasise the Arctic as a northern terra nullis inhabited by an abundance of wildlife, to be violently rendered down into industrial-imperial commodities, but not by a native human population, with indigenous claims on the land and its resources. And this in spite of the regular contact documented in surviving first-hand accounts written by Hull whalers;[29] by the presence, in Hull, of Inuit items brought back by the whalers;[30] and by the Inuit brought to Hull, who multitudes saw kayaking on the Humber, in 1850, almost certainly one of Wheldon’s sources for the Inuit figure in A Whaling Brigg and Willoughby’s for British Whaling in the Arctic.[31]

As such, the Hull School Arctic represents an ethnically white horizon, to borrow a phrase from Jen Hill;[32] a white patch on the imperial map which, like a child’s colouring book, was increasingly coloured in red, just as the red whale blood spreads across our pair of images.[33] Indeed, we might think about the palette of Wheldon’s canvas as offering a kind of muted-pastel, Aestheticist take on the red, white, and blue, of the Union Jack, especially given the presence of the actual flag in the picture, staking a claim to the region, whose red colour is echoed and spreads out across the white landscape, recalling the flag of St George.[34]

I draw particular attention to the Aestheticist palette of Wheldon’s image because whilst we might, at first, imagine the Hull painter refreshing his palette after perhaps seeing Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Ecce Ancilla Domini (1849), at the Royal Academy, the chain of influence might work in the other direction. There may also be a previously unnoticed, but highly significant polar substrate to the fashionable new white painting of the 1860s, exemplified by the polar bear rug under the feet of J.M. Whistler’s Symphony in White Number 1: The White Girl (1861-2).[35]

Figure 5

Fig. 5: [A] view of Maitavie Bay, [in the island of] Otaheite [Tahiti] (BHC1932) William Hodges

But white girls, indeed women of any kind are conspicuously absent from the Hull School Arctic, surprising, given the again documented presence of not only the wives and daughters of Danish settlers in the whalers’ accounts, but of the numerous whaler-Inuit social, sexual, and reproductive relations that occurred in the period.[36] If Inuit women are entirely white washed out the Hull School pictures, the few Inuit men depicted have, as we have seen, a complex position. In the images, as in the majority of accounts, they are, perhaps unsurprisingly, in peacefully complementary, but hierarchically subordinate, relation to the white Europeans. They are by-standers and witnesses to the scene, rather than effective active participants within it. In the Wheldon and Willoughby, as we have seen, an Inuit man kayaks through the scene, as he decoratively kayaked on the Humber, and the pictures are designed to establish a clear contrast between the scale of the Inuit boat and the obviously more technologically impressive whale barques.[37] As such, the pictures suggests a kind of Arctic variant of a picturesque imperial landscape aesthetic, emphasizing coastal profiling and featuring indigenous staffage, deriving, most obviously, from the visual culture of Captain James Cook’s earlier eighteenth-century, southern-hemispheric voyages, such as William Hodges’s The Resolution and Adventure in Maitavai Bay.[38] (Fig. 5) And, with that in mind, it is significant that Cook was born in Whitby, just around the coast from Hull, and that Whitby was the city’s major rival, in the early nineteenth century, as a whaling port, following the unparalleled success of the Scoresby dynasty.[39]

Indeed, eighteenth-century visual, and particularly imperial picturesque, culture cast a long-shadow over these images, given also the repoussoir landscape effects, and Hogarthian, serpentine line of cartographic beauty leading up to Wheldon’s Inuit kayak. This encourages spectators to think about whether Arctic scenery was best imagined as a kind of marginally topographically-accessorized marine painting, as a kind of river- or estuary-scape painting with ships, or represented the bastard child of both, given the way in which Arctic water and ice are constantly shifting positions with one another, and transforming into one another.

But the British understanding of Inuit figures did not just derive from late eighteenth-century precedents. It was increasingly in flux in the mid-nineteenth century. On the one hand, the Inuit were recognized as the only possible hope for the survival of the lost Franklin expedition of 1846.[40] On the other, reports circulating from around 1854, sourced from the Inuit, suggesting that Franklin’s crew engaged in cannibalism before their ultimate demise, resulted in the widespread damnation of the Inuit in the British national press; their own supposedly-distasteful, raw-flesh eating habits used to explain and discredit the supposedly malicious fantasy of the Franklin crew’s cannibalism.[41]

The Hull School of painters, then, might look provincial, at first glance, of no more than regional or local-historical interest. But it is only a provincial scholar who fails to understand the manifold ways in which mid-century Hull painters exemplified a complex, not quite world-systemic, cosmopolitanism; although I am mindful, in making this claim, that it merely extends the already dominant aesthetic of the cosmopolitan out to the regions, rather than challenging that cosmopolitan aesthetic with something more emphatically provincial, which might be the more powerful move, historiographically speaking.[42]

Either way, Wheldon’s canvas offers viewers three different ways to understand such contact zones. Firstly, as a temporal and stratigraphic layering of cultures, like falling snow, with the lower or older layer disappearing beneath the upper or newer layer; although it is, perhaps, worth noting that, in none of the Hull School pictures, do we see snow falling, rather than already settled, thus suggesting an Arctic already securely British. Secondly, and most consistently, if largely in the background elements, as a contact zone akin to that between the ice, snow and water, with each element interacting and mutually transforming the others, in a cycle of water, ice, and melt-water; surface water, air condensation, and cloud precipitation; a scene of mutual transformation that we might associate, more emphatically, with Turner’s vortexes and marine force fields. And, finally, and most obviously, and shamelessly, as a violent and murderous objectification and regional asset stripping, by the more at the expense of the less powerful.

Whilst the Hull School painters may not have the authority of the supposedly more worldly Turner, then, they are nothing if not differently cosmopolitan and urbane, and, in seeing them as such, we position ourselves, as spectators and writers, more modestly, in the middle ranges of agency, not hierarchically above and beyond, and separate from, the rest of natureculture,[43] but on the ground with our fellow human and animal messmates, similarly vulnerable and buffeted by, and within, the not-so neo-imperial, capitalist-world-system, capitalist weather-system, and capitalist eco-system.[44]

  1. For a series of readings of British art as the product of contact zones, see Julie Codell, ed. Transculturation in British Art, 1770-1930 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2012). I have been encouraged to think about the intersections of ecology and cosmopolitanism by Martha Nussbaum, ‘The Moral Status of Animals’ (2006), in Linda Kalof and Amy Fitzgerald, eds, The Animals Reader: The Essential and Contemporary Writings (Oxford: Berg, 2007), 30-37; and Donna J. Haraway, When Species Meet (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008).

  2. For more on the Hull School, see Martha Cattell, ‘The Hull School of Whale Painting’, in Jason Edwards, ed. Turner and the Whale (London: Bloomsbury, 2017), 24-54. See also Arthur Credland, Marine Painting in Hull Through Three Centuries (Hull: Hutton, 1993) and The Hull Whaling Trade (Hull: Hutton, 1995).

  3. The attribution to Wheldon is recent, and based on the similar palette and formation of the ice floes, with their stalactites. For more on Wheldon, see Jason Edwards, ‘Humanimal Relations in the Nineteenth-Century Circum-Polar World, or J.H. Wheldon’s The Diana and the Chase in the Arctic (1857), from a Vegan-Theoretical Perspective’, in Emelia Jane Quinn and Benjamin Westwood, eds, Towards a Vegan Theory (Oxford: Blackwells, 2018).

  4. In An Account of the Arctic Regions, with a History and Description of the Northern Whale Fishery (Edinburgh: Archibald and Constable, 1820), William Scoresby Junior talks about the “circumpolar seas” and “circumpolar regions” (49). The term was, however, in much wider circulation, with particular citational peaks in the 1820s and early 1890s, according to Google Ngrams.

  5. For more on global history, see Bruce Mazlish, ed. The Global History Reader (London: Routledge, 2004). For more on world-systems theory and history, see Immanuel Wallerstein, World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004). For more on cosmopolitanism, see Garrett W. Brown and David Held, eds, The Cosmopolitanism Reader (London: Polity, 2010). For more on the problem of art historical provinciality, see Terry Smith, ‘The Provincialism Problem’, Artforum 13.1 (September 1974), 54-59. For a helpful survey of positions in the world art debate, see Kitty Zijlmans and Wilfried Van Damme, World Art Studies: Exploring Concepts and Approaches (Amsterdam: Valiz, 2008); and James Elkins, Is Art History Global? (London: Routledge, 2007). For perhaps the most exhaustive set of collective case studies, see John Onians, ed. Atlas of World Art (London: Laurence King, 2004). Finally, for an overview of imperial art histories, see Martin Jay and Sumathi Ramaswamy, eds, Empires of Vision: A Reader (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014).

  6. For general overviews, see Eleanor Hughes, ed. Spreading Canvas: Eighteenth-Century British Marine Painting (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2016); and Denys Brook Hart, British 19th-Century Marine Painting (Woodbridge: Antique Collectors Club, 1974).

  7. For more see, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, ‘Melanie Klein and the Difference Affect Makes’, South Atlantic Quarterly 106.3 (Summer 2007), 632. DOI: 10.1215/00382876.2007.020.

  8. For more on Turner as a marine painter, see Christine Riding and Richard Johns, eds, Turner and the Sea (London: Thames and Hudson, 2013).

  9. Barry Venning, ‘Turner’s Whaling Subjects’, Burlington Magazine 127.983 (February 1985), 75-83.

  10. I am grateful to Martha Cattell for sharing her research on Ward with me in this context.

  11. Hughes, ed. Spreading Canvas, 8.

  12. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990).

  13. Joseph Litvak, ‘Vulgarity, Stupidity, and Worldliness in Middlemarch’, in Susan David Bernstein and Elsie B. Michie, eds, Victorian Vulgarity (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2009). For more on distinction, see Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (London: Routledge, 1984).

  14. For more on the circum-Atlantic world, see Joseph Roach, Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996); Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (London: Verso, 1993); and Geoff Quilley and Kay Dian Kriz, eds, An Economy of Colour: Visual Culture and the Atlantic World, 1660-1830 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003).

  15. For more, see Arthur Credland, The Hull Whaling Trade: An Arctic Enterprise (Hull: Hutton, 1995).

  16. Ward’s Swan and Isabella was shown at the Royal Academy in 1840, in a year in which Turner was on the hanging committee, and in which his own The Slave Ship, originally known as Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying – Typhoon Coming On, was on display. For more on Ward, see Arthur G. Credland, John Ward of Hull: Marine Painter, 1798-1849 (Hull: Ferens Art Gallery, 1981). According to Venning, “Turner would surely have been impressed with” Ward’s work, “its quality, novelty, and above all its associations, which Ward spelt out at length in the catalogue, knowing they would strike a chord, even in a London audience” (‘Turner’s Whaling Subjects’, 76).

  17. For example, as Hughes reminds us, although Reynolds “does not comment on contemporary marine painting as a genre”, in his Discourses, he does relegate the “Sea-Views of Vandervelde” to “the category of those artists whose ‘genius has been employed on low and confined subjects’” (Spreading Canvas, 12-13).

  18. For more on the visual culture of Dundee during its heyday as a whaling port, see Malcolm Archibald, Ancestors in the Arctic: A Photographic History of Dundee Whaling from the Collection of Dundee Art Galleries and Museum (Edinburgh: Black and White, 2013).

  19. For more, see Brian Fagan, The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History (New York: Basic, 2000) and Jamie Woodward, The Ice Age: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014). The first Christmas card, meanwhile, was manufactured and distributed by Henry Cole in 1843. In thinking about the changing meanings of snow as festively British in the wake of Dickens’s short stories, it might be worth noticing that, at least by Sedgwick’s terms, the Hull School pictures may represent something more akin to queer, anti-Christmas cards. For Sedgwick, “The depressing thing about the Christmas season” is that “it's the time when all the institutions are speaking with one voice. The Church says what the Church says”, “the State says the same thing”, the “language of commerce more than chimes in”, and the “media, in turn, fall in triumphantly behind the Christmas phalanx”. Indeed, according to Sedgwick, “they all - religion, state, capital, ideology, domesticity, the discourses of power and legitimacy - line up with each other so neatly once a year”, and the “monolith so created is a thing one can come to view with unhappy eyes”. “What if”, Sedgwick asks, “instead there were a [queer] practice of valuing the ways in which meanings and institutions can be at loose ends with each other? What if the richest junctures weren't the ones where everything means the same thing?” (Tendencies (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993), 5-6). With this in mind, the Hull School paintings might be thought to make just such an unhappy queer intervention, filled, as they are, with animals who have no future, and returning the violence against animals buried beneath so many Christmas snow scenes, often involving sentimentalised pets and working animals, such as reindeer, but never depicting the scene of mass animal slaughter that is required for all those Christmas dinners. For more on queer anti-futurity, see Lee Edelman, No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004).

  20. For more, see the National Maritime Museum, The Art of the Van de Veldes (London: National Maritime Museum, 1982) and Remmelt Daalder, Van de Velde and Son: Marine Painters (Leiden: Primavera, 2016). For more on Dutch marine painting in general, see George S. Keyes, ed. Mirror of Empire: Dutch Marine Art of the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990). See also Richard Johns, ‘After Van de Velde’ in Hughes, ed. Spreading Canvas, 17-40; and Sarah Monks, ‘Turner Goes Dutch’, in David H. Solkin, ed, Turner and the Masters (London: Tate, 2009), 73-85.

  21. For more on this seismic shift, see Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World System volumes II: Mercantilism and the Consolidation of the European World-Economy, 1600-1750 and III: The Second Era of Great Expansion of the Capitalist World-Economy, 1730s-1840s (1980 and 1989; Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011).

  22. For more on the black, white, and red Atlantics, see Tim Barringer, ‘A White Atlantic: The Idea of American Art in Nineteenth-Century Britain’, 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century 9 and Kate Flint’s response, For more on the controversy over confederate monuments, see the All Monuments Must Fall syllabus, at (Date of access: November 8 2017).

  23. For examples of the ongoing dominance of India in British imperial art history, see the ‘Empire and Art: British India’ section of Diana Newall, ed., Art and Its Global Histories (Manchester; Manchester University Press, 2017), 179-232. For an influential early work, see Partha Mitter, Much Maligned Monsters: History of European Reactions to Indian Art (Oxford: Clarendon, 1977).

  24. The canonical mid-nineteenth-century text on the Inuit is Charles Francis Hall, Life with the Esqimaux: The Narrative of Captain Charles Francis Hall of the Whaling Barque ‘George Henry’, from the 29th of May, 1860, to the 13th September 1862 (London: Sampson, Law, Son, and Marston: 1864). For an only more canonical, early-twentieth-century example, see Franz Boas, The Central Eskimo (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1964). For more recent surveys of the inter-relationship between whalers and Inuit, see Ross, W. Gilles. Whaling and Eskimos: Hudson Bay 1860-1915 (Ottawa: National Museum of Canada, 1975), and, from an Inuit perspective, Dorothy Harley Eber, When the Whalers Were Up North: Inuit Memories from the Eastern Arctic (Boston: David R. Godine, 1989).

  25. For example, whilst Hull whaling captain William Barron boastfully points us that the Inuit were “much surprised to hear me address them in their native tongue, which I could speak very well, being so often amongst them from my boyhood”, it is clear from his Old Whaling Days (1895; Memphis: General, 2012), that the linguistic traffic went in both directions (31).

  26. For more on conceptual spaces where n >2 but < infinity , and might most profitably hover around the 7-8 mark, see Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Adam Frank, ‘Shame in the Cybernetic Fold: Reading Silvan Tomkins’, Critical Inquiry 21.2 (Winter 1995), 496-522.

  27. For more see, Charles Edward Smith, The Nightmare Voyage of the Diana from the Journal of the Ship’s Surgeon Charles Edward Smith (Lerwick: Shetland Times, 2014). For Smith’s encounters with the Inuit, see xi, and 17, 19-20. Indeed, it may be important, with Wheldon’s picture in mind, that Smith received a “kayak, of a type called an ‘avasisaartoq’”, a “beautiful thing the size of a child’s toy, made of stitched sealskin with whalebone tips to the curved ends, and with the paddles held by [a] little, jointed half-figure”. This can now be found in the Shetland Museum (Nightmare Voyage, xi)

  28. A further example by Hull painter, Robert Willoughby, his British Whaling in the Arctic (c.1830), in the New Bedford collections also contains an Inuit figure in a kayak. I am grateful to Martha Cattell for sharing this reference with me.

  29. In addition to Smith, Barron frequently documented his contact with his “old Eskimo friends” (Old Whaling Days, 18). For further examples, see Old Whaling Days, 3, 6, 9-10, 12-14, 16, 23-24, 26-32, 36, 39, 46-48, 53, and 56. Barron also documents the presence, at Trinity House in Hull, of a “kayak dating from 1613” from the Frobisher voyage, with “paddle, drogue, bird dart, harpoon, and gear” as well as an effigy of an Eskimo (Old Whaling Days, 47). This again might represent a key source for Wheldon’s image.

  30. For more, see Meg Boulton, ‘Exploring Frozen Worlds: Inuit Art in the Hull Maritime Museum’, in Edwards, ed., Turner and the London, 122-144.

  31. For example, in 1850, Hull was visited by an Inuit man who arrived in a whale ship, and who delighted locals with his nautical exploits, in the Humber, before drowning. His kayak was preserved in the Museum of the Literary and Philosophical Society before being transferred to the Hull Maritime Museum. (Robert G. David, The Arctic in the British Imagination, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000), 145).

  32. Jen Hill, White Horizon: The Arctic in Nineteenth-Century British Imagination (New York: SUNY University Press, 2009).

  33. I am grateful to Jiyi Ryu for conversations about the potential chromatic meanings of imperial maps.

  34. That said, we should remember that Wheldon’s Northern European Renaissance, as well as British, scene, contains a good deal of Van Der Velde and Breughal green, in his algae-filled, whale-enticing water. If the Union Jack reading seems far-fetched, it might be worth noting that The Times Short Guide to the Tate Gallery of Contemporary Art (London: 1897) described Breton Riviere’s polar landscape Beyond Man’s Footsteps (1894), with its “red sun-set [which] detects a white bear climbing on a hill of blue ice”, as being “painted in the colours of the Union Jack” (28).

  35. For more, see Nicholas Daly, ‘The Woman in White: Whistler, Hiffernan, Courbet, Du Maurier’, Modernism/Modernity 12. 1 (January 2005), 1-26; and Sally-Anne Huxtable, ‘White Walls, White Nights, White Girls: Whiteness and the British Artistic Interior, 1850–1900’, Journal of Design History 27.3 (September 2014), 237-255. I am grateful to Liz Prettejohn for offering these suggestions and for first encouraging me to think about the new, mid-century white painting. For more on vanguard mid-century British painting, see Allen Staley, The New Painting of the 1860s: Between the Pre-Raphaelites and the Aesthetic Movement (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011).

  36. For example, Barron documented that he thought it “strange” when “there were no women or children to be seen”, and that still “possessed a rough chart, sketched by a native woman”. He also went “on shore to look at the grave of an Eskimo whom Captain Parkr brought to England with her husband from Cumberland Gulf in 1847”, who had “died on the return journey, and was buried on [the] island”. This was Ukaluk, “in English, a hare”, whose life cast bust remains in the Hull Maritime Museum. In addition, Barron remembered how some Inuit women’s “dresses were very fancifully decorated with beads”, and how “young female natives wore dried salmon skin covered boots, which shone like silver when the sun was out”. Mindful of such erotic temptations, the captain was a “strict disciplinarian” who allowed “no natives […] on board after dark”. Finally, Barron was also taught Inuk by “two girls” including young woman who “went by the name of Hannah, given to her by the Americans on account of her native name being too long”. Several years afterward, Barron recalled, she “got married, and came to Hull with a Mr. Bowlby” (Old Whaling Days, 13-14, 24, 29-30).

  37. Barron reported that, at first, the Inuk, who had arrived in “two luggage boats and ten canoes”. “could not be persuaded by us to come alongside”, having “never seen a white man or ship before”, and feeling “greatly astonished to see such a large kyack, or canoe, as they called us. Some took hold of the ring bolts in the deck; others tried to shake the masts, and in various ways showed their amazement” (Old Whaling Days, 27, 30).

  38. For more see, Bernard Smith, Imagining the Pacific in the Wake of the Cook Voyages (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1992); and Geoff Quilley and John Bonehill, eds, William Hodges 1744-1797: The Art of Exploration (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2004).

  39. For more, see Tom and Cordelia Stamp, William Scoresby: Arctic Scientist (Whitby: Caedmon, 1975).

  40. For more on Franklin see, A. Lambert, The Gates of Hell: Sir John Franklin’s Tragic Quest for the Northwest Passage (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009).

  41. Whilst the English word for Eskimo derived from a phrase meaning “an eater of raw flesh”, and whilst Barron refused to partake of the “stomach of a deer”, which the Inuit considered a “great delicacy”, since he had “no relish for such dainties”, he nevertheless felt obliged to document that the reason American whalers remained “quite well, and had not had a day’s sickness” was because they had “lived upon Eskimo food, which is raw frozen seal or walrus flesh”, and a good cure for scurvy. Indeed, Barron reported that the Inuit “kept all the crew supplied with food for eight months without any thought of recompense, and when the vessel was liberated from her long winter’s imprisonment, the men were in perfect health and strength (13, 31, 61).

  42. For more on what’s at stake in rethinking the status of British folk arts, see Martin Myrone, ‘Instituting English Folk Art’, Visual Culture in Britain 10:1 (2009), 27-52; and et al, eds, British Folk Art (London: Tate, 2014).

  43. For more on the idea of natureculturte, see Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993).

  44. For more on the capitalist ecosystem, see Jason W. Moore, Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital (London: Verso, 2015); and ed. Anthropocene or Capitalocene: Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism (Oakland: PM, 2016).