The Hull Whaling Fleet of Sir Samuel Standidge - Unknown Artist (perhaps Robert Willougby) (1769)
oil on canvas, 50.8 x 60.7cm
KINCM:2005.5061, Hull Maritime Museum

The painting, fashioned six years before Turner’s birth, purports to depict the whaling fleet of Sir Samuel Standidge, a key local patron, as his portrait, elsewhere in the collection, reveals. Comprising the Berry, Britannia, and British Queen, as viewers learn from the belated, early-modern banner unfurled across the top centre, the painting drew on a print, published in 1754, after Charles Brooking’s earlier painting Greenland Fishery: English Whalers in the Ice. This canvas reverses the orientation of the print, with the pair of polar bears, seen here on the right, echoing those on the left of Brooking’s image, whilst the central boats sails in the opposite direction. The anonymous painter, however, does not simply replicate his source; he tailors it to make it more appealing to Standidge. He adds a red flag to the ship on the right to signal a successful catch, and he significantly increases the fluid propulsed from the whale’s blowhole on the bottom left, to emphasise the size of the catch and the scale of Standidge’s profits. 1769 was a key year for Britain and British art history: it witnessed the first summer exhibition of the Royal Academy in London, and, on the other side of the world, the arrival of Whitby–born James Cook in Tahiti and New Zealand.

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Credit: Images are courtesy of the Hull Maritime Museum