The Yacht 'Isabel' on the First Voyage into Smith Sound

(Updated, March 2015) This painting by George Chambers, junior, relates to Admiral Sir Edward Augustus Inglefield’s search for the missing Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin in 1852. The expedition, in the steam-assisted yacht ‘Isabel’, built in 1850, was privately fitted out by Lady Franklin and the vessel is shown sailing across glassy green Arctic waters scattered with ice, beneath an atmospherically lit sky. This is one of two paintings of the 'Isabel' by Chambers junior, this one being signed: the other is BHC3420. They are not a pair in terms of size and also because the ship is shown from the same angle, but both must have been done at about the time of the expedition: the other was certainly in Inglefield's possesion, since presented to the Museum by a descendant. The early history of this one is not yet known.

Chambers junior was a London-based marine artist, whose career has presented some problems, since while he was known to have lived into the 1870s his date of death long proved elusive. The existence of one or two paintings of South American landscape subjects signed George Chambers, and a false report that he died late in the century in Trinidad, also gave the impression that he later worked there. Apart from the landscapes mentioned, now assumed to be by another artist who shared the name, there is no evidence he crossed the Atlantic and in 2012 a newspaper death notice in 'The Standard', 17 January 1878, was found showing he died at 112 Livingstone Road, Clapham Junction (Wandsworth), on 12 January with his age given as 47: since he was baptized at St Paul's, Shadwell on 8 July 1829, he was more probably 48. The cause given in official records was 'phthysis' - long-standing tuberculosis - which was also that of his father's even younger death (at 37 in 1840).

Object Details

ID: BHC3420
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Chambers, George William Crawford
Events: Arctic Exploration: Franklin Search Expedition, Inglefield, 1852
Vessels: Isabel 1836
Date made: mid-19th century; circa 1852
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Frame: 622 mm x 1054 mm x 61 mm;Painting: 535 mm x 965 mm

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