Whaling - Unknown Artist (c.1840)
oil on tin, 38 x 48.5 cm
KINCM:2007.2254, Hull Maritime Museum

This anonymous painting from around 1840 is unusual in the way that it foregrounds the whale, rather than the whalers, the whaleboats, and, especially, the whale ships, who are distant presences on the horizon, suggesting the long distance the whalers have travelled from the ship to capture their quarry. The painting also represents, perhaps, the closest image in the Hull collections to Turner’s whaling quartet, and especially the first pair, in its dynamic understanding of the power of the whale’s body, and of the interacting forces of whale, whalers, waves, and wind. Indeed, in the painting, it is as if the whale’s body has generated a tidal wave the size of an iceberg. The image is also rare in depicting so much of the whale’s body above the water, suggesting that the artist understood more than most, and maybe even more than Turner, how whale anatomy worked in the water.  If the depiction of a whale’s fluke, in most images, suggested successful capture, because of the echo of the whale-fluke stamps used to mark capture in whaling log-books, here the outcome is less certain. The image shares the overall grey-blue tonality associated with Hull School painter Thomas Binks.

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Credit: Images are courtesy of the Hull Maritime Museum