On the Water

Oil Painting or Overpainted Print, Capturing a Sperm Whale

The most dangerous part of a dangerous job was working in the actual whaleboat, first chasing and then capturing and killing the prey.

This picture is a copy or an overpainted example of a famous print first issued in 1835, believed to be the first indigenous American whaling print. It is derived from a sketch by whaleman Cornelius Hulsart, who lost an arm on the whaler Superior and subsequently became an artist.

The original print was one of a pair produced to raise money for Hulsart, and it was dedicated to Superior's owners N. & W.W. Billings of New London, Connecticut. It is a fairly accurate portrayal of the danger in approaching and killing a wounded, enraged whale. As shown by the red, bloody whale spout, the whalers have struck the prey’s lungs or arteries, but the animal was still strong enough to break a boat in half and flip a crewman into the water.

ID Number:
wood, oil paint, paper, textile
25 7/8 in x 31 5/8 in x 2 in; 65.7225 cm x 80.3275 cm x 5.08 cm