4.03.2009

What's Up With That Image?

Are you curious what the image in the header of this blog is? Do you wonder who is that haunting fellow staring out at you, with the despairing boy looking up for reassurance? He was a famous explorer and a number of things are named after him here in North America.

The image is an engraving done for a magazine in 1882, based on an 1881 painting by John Collier, called "The Last Voyage of Henry Hudson."

From an exhibit of arctic exploration images, comes this description that ran in the "The Graphic" on January 7, 1882:
As America came to grips with Arctic disasters in the 1880s, some took comfort in the long precedent of polar tragedy.... Henry Hudson, for whom Hudson Bay and the Hudson River were named, was cast adrift by mutineers in 1611 and left to die, a scene made famous by John Collier’s painting The Last Voyage of Henry Hudson. Here The Graphic reproduces Collier’s scene for its readers.
The original painting was, of course, in color. You can read more about it here, but the description from that linked site contains this interesting information:
Henry Hudson, the great navigator, made his last voyage to the Polar Seas in 1610. In the summer of 1611 his crew mutinied and set him adrift in an open boat with his son, John Hudson, and some of the most infirm of the sailors. They were never heard of more. Collier shows the moment when Hudson realises his fate and that of his companions.
Note the look of resignation on Hudson's face. Perhaps that is why I actually like the engraving better. Hudson's visage is no longer one of resignation. Instead, his piercing stare is a mix of wisdom and determination, but with full knowledge of his dire circumstances and the trials that are sure to come.
That determination was all for naught, as the boat was lost to the chilly depths of the arctic. Still, I like this work as a representation of what I'm fighting for and against. Hudson may not have made it, but he didn't have as detailed a map of the icebergs as I do. Now, if I could only get my kid to put on a damn coat.

2 comments:

LB said...

I did wonder. Thanks for the great explanation.

C. August said...

I certainly didn't pick it knowing fully what it was... I just found a really cool engraving having to do with icebergs (Titanic and all that).

One thing that struck me about the engraving once I learned where it came from is that some artist created it by hand just so it could be reproduced in a magazine. It makes me wish they still did things like that for magazines. Of course, it's hard to make an engraving of a "found art" collage of used diapers and Mexican soda bottle caps splattered with elephant dung.