It is rainy here in mid-Michigan. The kind of weather that drives everyone to my favorite coffee shop and when you decide it’s soup for lunch. The sort of weather that makes you want to curl up with a book in front of a fireplace. To be fair, almost all weather incites this feeling for me. Not just any book would do though, it would have to be a really good, can’t-put-it-down kind of story. Brook Watson’s biography would do. If he had a biography. Instead we have this:
|Watson and the Shark by John Singleton Copley|
I promised you more (crooked and poorly cropped) paintings from the DIA! This painting is based on a true story. The man being rescued is Brook Watson. He was an orphan, who wound up as a crewmember of a merchant boat. He really did fall overboard and was attacked by a shark off the coast of Cuba. He was finally rescued by his friends on their third attempt, but the shark had a leg up on him and well… that’s my way of saying he bit off Watson’s leg.
But Watson prospered despite this traumatic injury! In fact he went out on a limb (I can hear you groaning!) and became super rich and Lord Mayor of London (no word on whether that is the same as being just plain “Mayor”.) He and Copley became friends and Watson commissioned this work, which Copley actually completed three times. The other two paintings (which are the same, but different) are hanging in the National Gallery and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
Art historians find the diversity in the boat interesting. There are men of different races and wealth. The black man may look particularly familiar to you. It’s the same model Copley used for the portrait I wrote about last week that Carla and I loved so much. Here it is again:
|Remember? I wrote about his watery eyes? Still love it.|
Of course, Copley painted Watson and the Shark at a time when aquariums were not as abundant as they are today. There was also no Shark Week on the Discovery channel, so a lot of guesswork went into the painting of the shark. It has lips for example, and forward-facing eyes. Eh. I think we still get the terrifying effect of a shark swarming while you’re trying to have a naked dip in the ocean.