Munificence and other Whalers in the Arctic - Robert Willoughby (c.1802-08)
oil on canvas, 54.2 x 87.5 cm
KINCM:2007.1312, Hull Maritime Museum

Willoughby was one of the most successful members of the Hull School. He lived near the city’s docks, and described himself as a house, ship, and sign painter, who also worked in glass and taught drawing in the evenings. The canvas was presumably a commission for the owner or captain of the Munificence, who had began her career in the northern fishery in 1802, before being lost in the Arctic in 1808. Willoughby focuses on five different views of the ship, with port and stern views dominating the scene, and a sequence of three views, on the right side of the canvas, suggesting the ship hugging the ice on the way to the horizon line and home, at the end of a successful day or season’s hunting. The nutrient-rich green water recalls the earlier work of the Van de Veldes, and helps explain why there are so many whales swimming in these coastal waters. On the ice on the far left are a polar bear and its cub, about to be attacked by the nearest whaleboat.  The image is comparatively democratic, given the unprecedented number of whale boats and their crews depicted in addition to the ships.

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Credit: Images are courtesy of the Hull Maritime Museum