Whale Hunting - Unknown Artist (date unknown)
Oil on canvas, 54 x 78.5 cm
KINCM:2007.2283 , Hull Maritime Museum

This again unusually dramatic scene of sperm whale hunting includes two whale ships, sailing in opposite directions, to demonstrate the artist’s ability to depict ships in port and starboard views, and to frame the view of a whale hunt taking place in the middle distance foreground. The horizon line is unusually high for a marine painting. Normally, it would be lower, to enable the artist to depict, without visual interruption, the details of the rigging and sails. Here, the artist emphasises how far from the circum-Pacific shore the boats are. Like Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (1851), the canvas depicts sperm whale hunting at its various stages. The facing ships suggest cruising around looking for quarry. The crew of the ship on the left hand side are flensing. The right-hand ship flies a red pennant and a merchant navy ensign, whilst the ship on the left patriotrically sports the flag of St George, to indicate that these are English, rather than Scottish or American whalers. Two further whale hunts take place in the foreground, whose rearing, dynamic, wave-churning, and whale-boat threatening, sperm whales anticipate the second of Turner’s whaling quartet. The overall bottle-green tonality recalls again the Van de Veldes..

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Credit: Images are courtesy of the Hull Maritime Museum