Fine art, Oil paintings, Maritime Art Greenwich

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The Commander

Fine art

Object connections:

Collection Fine art, Oil paintings, Maritime Art Greenwich
Gallery locationNot on display

Object details:

Object ID BHC1284
Description A portrait of a German U-boat Commander of World War I standing on the after deck of a U-boat, facing towards the horizon. He wears a cap, a jacket over a naval sweater, leather gloves and knee-high boots as he stands with his hands clasped behind his back on the wet deck. This large painting was the result of official war work undertaken by the artist when he was aboard 'U-53' crossing the Atlantic to Newport and back in a stormy voyage of many weeks. The resulting images were then used to illustrate the book 'U-Boat Stories'. This picture is entitled 'The Commander', and portrays Captain-Lieutenant Hans Rose who was the commander of 'U-53'. The text in the book refers to the responsibilities and duties of such a commander and this painting has tried to capture these emotions through the unusual composition. The role of a commander was beset with many perils, the threat of death was ever present, and the painting aims to evoke the vigilance and silence necessary in enemy infested seas, as well as the isolation of command itself. The view looks aft over the rear casing of the boat, with the wake beyond. Markus Robinson, working (in May 2012) on a biography of Hans Rose has kindly pointed out that 'U-53' had both a forward and an aft deck-gun and that Bergen has omitted the latter in the cause of pictorial effect, though its position is still clear just in front of the raised aft hatch. He also draws attention to the school of dolphins which Rose is watching on the far right horizon. The painting has been signed by the artist and is dated 1918. It was transferred to the Museum from the Naval War Trophies Committee in the mid-1940s.
Date made circa 1918

Artist/Maker Bergen, Claus
Place made Germany
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements Painting: 1602 x 2293 mm, Frame: 1860 x 2575 x 120 mm, Weight: 66kg
  • The Commander (BHC1284)
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    These Users helped to update this record: Markus F. Robinson