Whaling in the Arctic
Whaling in the Arctic


Whaling in the Arctic

c. 1772 England

Offered by Martyn Gregory Gallery

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The son of a ship’s carpenter and marine artist, the younger John Cleveley studied watercolours under Paul Sandby. He depicted a variety of maritime subjects, and also worked up on-the-spot sketches made by others into finished compositions for engraving - notably subjects from Captain Cook’s second and third expeditions to the Pacific (on which his brother James served as carpenter); these subjects included the death of Cook himself on the beach of Hawaii in February 1779.

In 1772 Cleveley accompanied Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander as draughtsman on the first British scientific expedition to Iceland, bringing back specimens ranging from plants to volcanic rock from Mount Hekla. In 1774 he made watercolours (held by the British Museum and V&A) of icebergs and icebound ships, which were based on sketches made in the previous year by Philippe d’Auvergne, a member of the British Naval North Polar Expedition led by Constantine Phipps. (The expedition reached 80° 48 minutes North in July 1773 before solid ice forced them to turn back.)

After some pioneering ventures in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, British whaling in the Arctic began in earnest in 1750, when the bounty was increased to £2 a ton, and twenty ships sailed north. In 1753 there were 35 English and 14 Scottish whalers sailing to the Arctic, returning with some 150 whales. British-based whaling reached a peak in the late 1780s, then declined, and revived again; by 1798 Hull had overtaken London as possessor of the largest and most successful whaling fleet in Britain. Ice remained a constant hazard on these expeditions, and many whalers were crushed and wrecked, before the coming of steam power allowed the ships to manoeuvre more easily in confined spaces.
Height 14.00 inch (35.56 cm)
Width 20.25 inch (51.43 cm)
Stock Code
Pen and ink and watercolour over traces of pencil, on the original wash-line mount
Signed in black ink lower left: ‘Jno Cleveley’
Martyn Gregory Gallery

Martyn Gregory Gallery
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