Cooper's The Pilot Whale Illustration - Mid-19th-century pen & ink drawing

An original mid-19th-century pen & ink drawing, Cooper's The Pilot Whale Illustration.

A perfectly executed pen and ink drawing, with white paint highlights, of sailors attempting to harpoon a whale who has capsized their boat. This work is likely a copy of a book illustration from James Fenimoore Cooper's naval tale The Pilot: A Tale of the Sea, first published in January 1824). The story tells of the adventures of a naval captain during the American Revolution. The whaling scene, depicted here, is thought to have been Cooper's response to his reading the whaling account in Sir Walter Scott's The Pirate. 

Unsigned. Inscribed above centre: 'Dangers of the Whale Fishery'; Inscribed below centre 'Starn off, starn off, sir! The creator's in his flurry! - Long Tom Coffin'.
Minor foxing and age toning as shown. 
25.4cm x 19.1cm.

This image is one of a collection we have for sale, by a number of hands, of drawings and prints taken from the popular visual culture prevalent in the 1830s. With a wealth of subjects ranging from the moody melancholy of the Gothic, to the picturesque ruins of Romantic landscapes, it reaches across genres of contemporary poetry, literature and art history, and is a result of the eye of a veritable Victorian magpie.

The works have a unique dual purpose – they combine the depth and range evident in new emerging processes of printmaking, such as lithography and mezzotint, with shifting standards of aesthetics in both the literary and visual arts. Present are more typical notions of Victorian beauty- such as landscapes, fair maids and noble animals- taken from popular prints and book illustrations. And yet in contrast, this was also an age of finding allure within the darkness, and the popularity of the Gothic and the Romantic meant that the exquisite was being sought in the deepest corners of the Victorian imagination. The sublime in the decay reigned supreme, and is evident in the period’s proliferation of tales exploring horror, the supernatural and suicidal sacrifice, many of which are also represented in this collection.

These works are lovingly attended; some painted by hand and others copied with an expert eye, and are a unique representation of the increasingly complex threads woven between the artistic, the literary and the industrial as the century marched forward towards Victoria’s reign.

Text copyright © 2017 Somerset & Wood Fine Art Ltd. All rights reserved.

Product code: JG-310

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