Watson and the Shark Painting Analysis

John Singleton Copley (1738 – 1815), was an American painter built-in in Boston, Massachusetts. From the time Copley began to acrylic at the age of fifteen, abounding bodies throughout Massachusetts admired his paintings; also, bodies from alternative colonial cities accustomed his account paintings. A big afflatus and account to him was his stepfather, Peter Pelham, a acknowledged English engraver, painter, and teacher[1].

At the age of twenty-one Copley larboard Boston to biking about Europe to apprentice added about the art of painting. First, he went to London area he met Benjamin West, a admired painter about Europe and an accustomed painter in the Royal Academy. While in London, he abstruse altered techniques from West.

These techniques seemed accepted in London, but were alien in America. Copley wrote in a letter aback home to his stepfather cogent him about a simple address he had abstruse “…Before painting, achieve drawings.”[2] From there Copley confused on to Paris area his aplomb grew alike added as he saw immediate paintings from the best accepted painters in Europe at the time. As he got the adventitious to see works from his two admired artists, Poussin and Rubens, Copley started abstraction every time he saw article he anticipation was a admirable form.3]

When he accustomed in Rome, Copley would acceleration aboriginal in the morning and account reliefs and aged statues at the French Academy. Although assured about his abilities to account and paint, he formed humbly on all the capacity of his painting projects. At the end of his break in Rome, Copley faced a adamantine decision; acknowledgment to America, the country he was built-in in and loved, or move to London area his art career would flourish. At this time, the American Revolution had started and he feared for the wellbeing of his ancestors aback in Boston. Although the abhorrence for his ancestors was strong, Copley absitively that affective to London would be the abandoned abode area he could advertise his actual paintings, for which he had been alive on endlessly about Europe. While he was aggravating to achieve this adamantine decision, his ancestors was already on a address to London unbeknownst to him.[4]

This painting is the adventure of Brook Watson, which took abode in Havana harbor, Cuba about 1749 aback he was abandoned fourteen years old. Watson, an drop was alive as a crewmember on a trading ship. While he was pond abandoned out in the anchorage aboriginal in the morning, a bluff attacked him. His shipmates ran to his rescue, but not afore the bluff attacked him at atomic two times. According to tales, Watson and Copley met while they were traveling from Boston to England in 1774. However, history says that Watson never catholic that year. Copley charge accept heard the adventure and its capacity from Londoners who ability accept been Watson’s political followers.[5]

Watson and the Bluff is a ample oil painting on canvas barometer 183.51 x 229.55 cm (fig. 1). Copley absitively to characterize the affecting arena area Watson was about to be attacked for the third time by a shark. This painting is a assignment during Copley’s English period; it was such a abundant success from the alpha that it was put on affectation at the Royal Academy in 1778.

Watson, who is naked in this painting and the bluff advancing him are in the beginning (fig. 1). The bluff has already devoured Watson’s appropriate leg, as we can see from amount 1 Watson’s appropriate leg is missing from the knee down. The bluff is axis against Watson, with its aperture wide-open and aciculate teeth suggests that he is not satisfied, and is abiding to accomplishment what he has started.[6] Besides Watson, in a baby boat, two of his shipmates are extensive to grab him and cull him on the boat. One of them is aggravating to activity off the bluff by coast a harpoon at the monster from the bow of the boat. A braiding befuddled at him is dangling abortive in the water. This painting has captured a moment of abhorrence and anguish in the faces and eyes of every man on that boat.

The quiet amnion of the anchorage serve Copley in the agreement of the painting to accompany the viewer’s absorption to the action. Copley’s placements of elements in the painting acquiesce the eyewitness to trace the action. The baiter is advancing from the anchorage against the shark. The movement of the bluff that is demography a about-face and a allotment of his anatomy is alfresco the painting. We can acutely chase the movement of the harpoon that the sailor is coast against the shark. In addition, the movement of the men against the boy makes the arena alike added tragic. (Fig. 1).

Watson and the Shark, alike admitting off center, are the focal credibility in this painting. The artisan has auspiciously fabricated this a adverse scene, by authoritative Watson arise as he is arctic in the moment, assuming him absolutely the way he was in those moments disturbing for his life. The bluff with his aperture advanced accessible and his aciculate teeth corrective in detail achieve the arena alike added affecting to the viewer.

The artisan has portrayed Watson naked in the baptize abandoned on his back, which shows him as actual vulnerable. His has a freighted attending in his face, with his aperture and eyes advanced accessible attractive anon at the shark, which seems to represent the angry predator, and one duke up as if he is extensive for advice from the heavens. The artisan has corrective the sun ascent in adverse with the situation, but has additionally put the ablaze on Watson the bluff and the crewmembers aggravating to get him out of there.

The absolute blush is sea blooming with some brighter colors in the background. These black colors accord in depicting these adverse moments in this scene. Anguish is all over the faces of men in the boat. The agreement is centered at the man in the average of the boat. All about him there is action.

Lines assume to be beneath important than shapes for the artisan in this painting. The artisan has been actual accurate in painting the men on the baiter and depicting their actions, so that the adventure and alone accomplishments of anniversary man in this arena would be actual bright to accept to the viewer. However, the best capacity accept gone to portray the bearings in which Watson is in, and to appearance his vulnerability.

While best reviews about this painting call it as a painting that is anecdotic a actual event, Irma Jaffe mentions in her journal, “John Singleton Copley’s ‘Watson and the Shark,’” that bodies accept absent one actual important aspect of Copley’s life; his religious life. As Jaffe credibility out, Copley was a actual religious man, he went to abbey every Sunday and adoration had played an important role in Copley’s appearance of himself as able-bodied as an artist. She says that this painting is about “resurrection and salvation”[7]

In her journal, she takes on the apologue of the bluff as a monster as declared in the Bible and the apologue of baptize as a life-giver and a balloon in the Bible. Jaffe again analyzes all the alternative elements. It is apparent that Copley has taken poses from beforehand sculptures and put them in his painting. He has taken them and put them in altered positions to achieve his final painting.

Copley fabricated the accomplishment to acrylic every detail. The bluff has actual abundant features; his teeth and eyes were corrective in detail to appearance the accurate attributes of this angry creature. Watson’s hair, his eyes, and his facial announcement were corrective in detail. Copley absolutely capital the eyewitness to get complex in the adverse adventure that had happened to his patron, Brook Watson.

[1] Rebora, Carrie.John Singleton Copley in America. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1995. p. 79.

[2] Plate, Robert.John Singleton Copley America’s First Abundant Artist. United States of America: David McKay Company, Inc., 1969. p. 100.

[3] Plate, Robert.John Singleton Copley America’s First Abundant Artist. United State of America: David McKay Company, Inc., 1969. p. 101.

[4] Plate, p. 105-109

[5] Jeffery, Margaret. “A Painting of Copley’s English Period.”Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, New Series1.4 (1942): 148. Web. 03 Mar 2010.

[6] Jeffery, p. 148

[7] Jaffe, Irma B. “John Singleton Copley’s “Watson and the Shark”.”American Art Journal9.1 (1977): 15-25. Web. 03 Mar 2010.


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