Single sheet, float mounted and framed, (21 ¼ x 36 ¼ inches). Fine lithographed print with printed color, finished by hand.
First edition. Lithographed by Bufford after the drawing by Russell. “Bufford made what are probably among the very best of the whaling lithographs” (Peters, p. 124). Subtitled: “Waiting a Chance. Setting on the Whale. Ship Cutting In. Just Fastening. Fast Changing Ends. Dead Whale Waif’d. Fast Boat Rolling up Sail. Whale Sounding. Mate Running. Trying Out. Stove Boat. Towing Whale to Ship. Whale in a flurry (Dying).”
This engaging, large-scale lithograph depicts the various stages and methods of whaling as it was practiced along the coast of the United States in the 19th century. Benjamin Russell was in a unique position to portray the intensity of whaling. A native of New Bedford, Massachusetts – the center of the American whaling industry – he had spent four years on a whaler in the 1840s and thereafter devoted himself to painting watercolor marine scenes. His personal experiences of whaling allowed him to imbue this image with a sense of realism that is lacking in contemporary scenes of the same subject, which tend towards romanticized embellishments. As such, this lithograph gives a more faithful and informative – yet equally dramatic – picture of the practice of whaling, then a crucial part of American industry.
The lithographer, John Bufford, is equally notable. After working for Nathaniel Currier in New York, he returned to his home of Boston to establish his own company. Among his many apprentices was Winslow Homer, who went on to become one of the first American artists of international renown. Like Currier & Ives, J. H. Bufford & Co. produced a vast amount of exceedingly popular imagery regarding all aspects of American life. Yet Bufford is most known for scenes such as this one, and the whaling lithographs produced by his firm are by far the best of his time. This particularly vivid image is considered one of the two most desirable that Bufford published, and is of considerable rarity today. See Harry T. Peters, “America on Stone.”