Thistlethwaite Americana | Folk Art Whaling Painting
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Folk Art Whaling Painting

Folk Art Whaling Painting

American, probably from Massachusetts

Circa 1840

Oil on Canvas

30″ H x 41″ W


This painting captures a dynamic scene of whaling thorough its utilization of unbelievable color and its large scale. It demonstrates the self-taught artist’s naive ability, as it was probably painted from memory, making viewers yearn for a nostalgic adventure on the high seas full of sea shanties and freedom from all of land’s restrictions. Two whaling ships and three whaleboats are depicted with a cerulean sky in fairly calm, whale-infested waters. The whale men and the whales, however, are anything but calm; they are both in danger of each other. Contrarily, this painting does not show any blood or potentially drowning men, giving off a lighter and slightly romanticized or even naïve image of whaling in 19th. century America, making it a wonderful addition to any household that loves the water, adventure, and maritime or whaling history. It’s scale is perfect for hanging over a mantle for everyone to experience its
beautiful folk quality.


The primary focus of this painting is placed on the six men in the whaleboat who are in pursuit of a dramatically surfacing whale blowing/spouting water through a single blow hole. Giving the painting a second glance, an absolutely fascinating and exciting amount of 19 th century whaling history and material culture is recorded. The whaleboat in the foreground of the painting is not depicted with a sail, but the two other whaleboats depicted in the scene have sails.


WHY WE LOVE IT: This painting can be at home in any new England seaport town and connect to a history of a bygone industry.