Object Image

An Arctic Summer: Boring Through the Pack in Melville Bay

In 1861 the marine painter William Bradford made the first of his eight expeditions to the Arctic. This painting, based on photographs and sketches produced during his final trip, in 1869, shows the artist’s steamer, Panther, plying its way through the summer ice along the northern coast of Greenland. Panther was one of numerous vessels engaged in the search for the Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. According to Bradford’s journal, the ship’s crew had decided to hunt the polar bear seen in the foreground, “anxious to possess so fine a skin,” but the bear made a parting glance over its shoulder before heading for the water, managing to escape its pursuers.

Credit: Gift of Erving and Joyce Wolf, in memory of Diane R. Wolf, 1982

Oil on canvas
131.4 x 198.1cm
Image and text © Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2019

Where you'll find this

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Permanent collection