Brook Watson

SoRandom: Historical Snapshots

Living in Boston or in Washington D.C., it is impossible for any museum aficionado to avoid being disquieted by the identical paintings of Watson and the Shark, by John Singleton Copley,

images-14 Watson and the Shark 

the first at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the second at the National Gallery, as often as one might see them. (There is a smaller third version in the Detroit Museum of Fine Arts, which I know was painted by Copley, but don’t know when or why, except that it might have been done as a study.) Each nearly life-size painting shows a Boston Whaler-type boat full of sailors having the dignity and solemnity of the Twelve Apostles, some sitting and some standing, all of their eyes focused on a young man in the water face up, naked, and soon to be have his head bitten off by a monstrously large shark that…

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