The Gilder in the Arctic - Robert Willoughby (c.1811-1830?)
oil on canvas, 84 x 130 cm
KINCM:2007.1443, Hull Maritime Museum

Binks’s canvas depicts a busy Arctic scene, where five ships can be found in close proximity to one another. Binks depicts the ships in port and starboard views, at various scales, and under varying degrees of sail, presumably to capture the attention of a marine patron especially interested in the Gilder, perhaps its captain or owner. The ship was built in 1811 and active in the Arctic whale fishery until 1830, when it was lost in the Davis Straits. In the foreground, two whale boats, on the right, are dragging their quarry back to the ship behind them, whilst a third, on the left, is harpooning a second whale. The flukes of other whales can be found all around suggest that there is plenty left for the whalers to catch. The scene is watched by two polar bears, in the left foreground; an Arctic mammal version of classic eighteenth-century landscape spectators. The two most prominent boats clearly derive from Willoughby’s earlier Whalers in the Arctic; whilst the harmonious grey-blue of the scene represents a kind of lighter, brighter, secondary-tone variant on the earlier indigo and slate-grey tonality of The Whaling Fleet of Sir Samuel Standidge. The central ship flies what appears to be a Dutch ensign, perhaps in homage to the Van de Veldes and Dutch origins of the genres of marine and Arctic whaling painting.

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Credit: Images are courtesy of the Hull Maritime Museum