Fine art, Oil paintings, Maritime Art Greenwich

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'Erebus' and 'Terror' in the Antarctic

Fine art

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Object ID BHC1215
Description One of a pair with BHC1214. The artist has portrayed the two ships, 'Erebus' and 'Terror' in the Antarctic. They represent the only human presence in an environment of rough peaks, glaciers, mountains and jagged rocks. The two ships are portrayed tossed in the waves as they navigate a passage though a sound. The ship to the right is signalling with flags to the other. In the foreground is Carmichael's interpretation of the wildlife to be found in the Antarctic. A whale sends up a jet of water in the foreground to the left. Carmichael was a prolific artist who produced drawings and engravings for the British newspapers of the time. However, as he did not accompany Ross the painting is not an eyewitness account. It may be a response to the publication of Ross's book about the expedition but the composition is based on a drawing which Carmichael appears to have done earlier, representing one of Captain William Edward Parry's two-ship expeditions in search of the North-West Passage in the 1820s. This was acquired by the National Maritime Museum in 2001. Carmichael presumably did not develop the drawing into an Arctic painting but instead used it for this Antarctic subject. The landscape seems fantastical and the scene has been romanticized, since although the environment is barren it is not threatening to the ships and men, and a golden glow appears over the mountain in the distance to the left. The presence of the birds and fish implies that nature has been interpreted as benign to man and not hostile. The painting has been signed by the artist and is dated 1847.
Date made 1847

Artist/Maker Carmichael, John Wilson
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Caird Fund
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements Painting: 1232 x 1842 mm; Frame: 1422 x 2033 x 120 mm;Overall weight: 50 kg;
  • 'Erebus' and 'Terror' in the Antarctic (BHC1215)
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