Sea History 125 - Winter 2008-2009

Page 37

Maritte Art News I

n August, th e Nantucket Historical Association (NHA) acquired two historic oil-on-canvas paintings-Ship Spermo Trying with Boats among Whales on California, 1821 (right) and Spermo Cutting in Whales on Japan, 1822 (below) , painted by Nantucket whaler-artist John Fisher. The Nantucket whaler Spermo sailed on its sole whaling voyage from 1820 to 1823 , in consort with the General Jackson and the Pacific. The captain of the General Jackson, John Fisher, a whaling master and self- taught artist, created six known canvases during this voyage, some of the earliest known oil paintings depi cting American whaling. Both paintings are 18" x 24" ca nvases and depict Spermo cutting in whales on the Japan grounds

and whaling off the California coast. Created by a seasoned whaling mas ter with an eye for detail, these scenes rank among the most vigorous depictions of whaling before the invention of photography. The cutting-in scene shows the raised blanket piece of the whale twisting in the air, while the crew heaves in unison to board it. The trying-out scene captures the blazing fires of the rendering process, a mincing station, and whaleboats dispatched on a pod of whales . Fisher mas terfully portrays the rolling swell of the ocean as Spermo hurtles through the waves, and circling seabirds swarm to share in the frenzy of the scene. (NHA, POB 101 6, 15 Broad Sr., Nantucket, MA 02554; Ph . 508 228- 1894; (continued)

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SEA HISTORY 125 , WfNTER 2 008-09


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