Whalers in the Arctic - Robert Willoughby (1807)
Oil on canvas, 65.5 x 96.5 cm
KINCM:2005.6282, Hull Maritime Museum

Willoughby’s Whalers in the Arctic was presumably addressed at an open market for marine paintings in the region, since no specific ship is mentioned in the title, or can be recognised from the image.  The canvas includes two ships’ portraits, one, at centre, in port view, and one, towards the right horizon, in lost stern view, accompanied by five whale boats. The absence of whales in the waters probably reflects less a dry season than patrons less concerned, than whale ship’s captains or owners, to see the kills that would profit them on their return home. Willoughby would again use the form of the two boats for the later Gilder in the Arctic. 1807, the year in which the canvas was painted, saw the first gas lit street in Britain: Pall Mall in London; gas lighting that would, ultimately, replace whale oil as the dominant technology in the coming decades.

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Credit: Images are courtesy of the Hull Maritime Museum