'Steam Whaler 'Chase' - Unknown Artist (c.c.1860?)
oil on canvas
KINCM:2007.2302, Hull Maritime Museum

The steam whaler, Chase, managed by Brown Atkinson for Hull Whale and Seal Fishing Company, was built in Bedford, Massachusetts, a northern sea board of the United States that was increasingly becoming the centre of the global whaling industry, especially in the Southern Fisheries, but also the Northern. The vessel first registered at Hull in 1858, and was lost in the Arctic in 1860, a decade before the picture is traditionally meant to have been painted. The close resemblance between this canvas and the Whaling Barque ‘Symmetry’, painted in 1860, may suggest a date a decade earlier is likely, perhaps as a memorial to the ship. The pair share many features: a portrait of a three-masted whaler in full sail and in starboard view located just off-centre of the canvas, parallel to a low horizon line revealing the full extent of the ship’s sails against a cloudy sky. This is juxtaposed with a second, foreshortened portrait in lost stern, part starboard view heading toward the horizon; and a white landmass on the right horizon. Taking the basic structure of the Symmetry picture, our artist significantly lightens the palette in the direction of the fashionable white painting of the 1860s; and adds a dragon figurehead, as well as a patriotic Union Jack ensign to the back of the boat, perhaps to play down its American origins. The artist also has a more convincing understanding of cloud formations and Arctic land masses, and fills the water with ice floes, which the steam, rather than sail, ship is able to push through.

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Credit: Images are courtesy of the Hull Maritime Museum