William Scoresby Junior - Edwin Cockburn (after 1822)
oil on canvas, 124 x 99 cm
Hull Maritime Museum, KINCM:2007.1313

William Scoresby Junior was the son of Whitby’s most successful whaling captain, who gave his son his name. Whilst Scoresby senior was most famous for inventing the crow’s nest, Scoresby junior was the author of An Account of the Arctic Regions, first published in 1820, which included a history and description of the “Northern Whale Fishery”. The volume contains a wealth of scientific information, much of it still in use, on Arctic meteorology, on snow and ice crystals, and on magnetism. Scoresby junior was also responsible for charting much of eastern Greenland for the first time.

The portrait depicts Scoresby in the second part of his life, which he devoted to studies of divinity as well as science, becoming a curate, whilst remaining an active part of the British scientific community, recognized by his membership of the Royal Society, Paris Academy of Sciences, and British Association for the Advancement of Science. In the picture, Scoresby wears clerical robes, and is seated, with an opened book and glasses in hand, on what appears to be ecclesiastical furniture, draped in clerical red, in front of a Gothic cloister., so as to read by the light of the window, perhaps. Scoresby’s former life, as a whaler, is nowhere to be seen.

Cockburn was a local painter, who spent much of his earlier life in Scoresby’s Whitby, before making a career as an artist famous for ship’s portraits, rural genre scenes, interiors, and coastal views, as well as portraiture. He studied under Royal Academician George Chambers, and frequently exhibited at the Academy, British Institution, and Royal Society of British Artists. Examples of his other works can be seen in the Pannett Gallery in Whitby and in the British Museum.

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Credit: Images are courtesy of the Hull Maritime Museum