Two Steam Whaling Ships Icebound in the Arctic - Unknown Artist (c.1870)
oil on canvas, 47.5 x 84cm
KINCM:2007.2251, Hull Maritime Museum

The advent of steam in the Hull Fisheries in the late 1850s promised to revolutionise the industry. But, in the wake of the Diana, painters took a more realistic view. Two Steam Whaling Ships Icebound in the Arctic adopts elements from earlier Hull School paintings, notably the juxtaposition of two ships, one in straightforward starboard view, this one akin to the two earlier portraits of the Chase, and a second, foreshortened ship in lost stern/port view, heading at a diagonal angle towards the horizon. The painter here emphasises the angle of the second view, as the ship lumbers towards its starboard side from the pressure of the ice. As in views of the nipped Diana, the scene is more landscape than seascape, with the viewer located across the ice and no water in sight. Again, here, however, the painter suggests the resilience of the crew, who have successfully retrieved the whale boats from the ship. Following the popularisation of monochrome engravings of the region in periodicals, such as the Illustrated London News, launched in 1842, painters increasingly explored the Arctic as a quietly colourful locale, offering a facture-heavy, painterly view to contrast the flat linearity of engraving and the monochrome limitations of photography.

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Credit: Images are courtesy of the Hull Maritime Museum