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276

WILLIAM BRADFORD

Massachusetts/California, 1823-1892

Clipper Golden West of Boston, outward bound, circa 1852.

Signed and indistinctly dated lower right "Wm. Bradford Fairhaven Mass 1st Month 1853". Label verso marked "Golden Wave, So. Fla. A.G. Estate, GPH-12/27". Another older label, designating a loan to an exhibition, indicated the lender was Albert Goodhue, obviously the "A.G." of the estate, and Carl Crossman's client.
Provenance:
Child's Gallery, Boston, Carl Crossman, director.
Albert Goodhue, Jr., purchased from the above circa 1965.
Northeast Auctions, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1996.

Hyland Granby Antiques, Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.
Purchased from the above by the Kelton Foundation
.
Literature:
See William Bradford--Sailing Ships & Arctic Seas
by Richard Kugler (New Bedford Whaling Museum and the University of Washington Press, Seattle and London, 2003), p. 6 for a discussion of the painting and p. 95 for a full-page color illustration.
Exhibited:
De Cordova Museum, Lincoln, Massachusetts, November 2-December 28, 1968.
New Bedford Whaling Museum, "William Bradford--Sailing Ships and Arctic Seas", May 24-October 26, 2003, Richard C. Kugler, curator.


The American clipper ship Golden West is shown outward bound, departing on her maiden voyage to San Francisco on December 12, 1852, depicted with the lighthouse on Little Brewster Island, the customary point of departure for Boston-owned vessels. The Golden West is shown in a starboard profile from the leeward, sailing into the wind with her sails braced hard on the port tack. The American ensign flies from the mizzen-gaff hoist and the prominent house flag of Glidden & Williams is worn at the truck of the main mast. The ship's gilded eagle figurehead is a prominent detail identifying the ship. The schooner off the clipper's bow is likely her departing pilot boat.

The 1,441-ton
Golden West, as her name suggests, was active in the Pacific and California trades. Built for the Boston firm of Glidden & Williams, she was an extreme clipper, making several trips around Cape Horn trading between China, Australia and the American West Coast. She still holds the record for the fastest sailing passage between Japan and San Francisco-- 4,876 miles in just over 20 days -- under Captain Putnam, from May 13 to June 2, 1856. In the early 1860s, between voyages from the West Coast or the Orient to New York and London, she traded in harbors throughout the Far East.
After being sold by Glidden & Williams, she was owned for some time by the New York firm of J.A. & T.A. Patterson. In 1863, as a result of the heavy toll taken against U.S. clippers by Confederate Commerce Raiders,
Golden West was sold to a British owner, J.G. Ross. In 1866, under Ross' ownership, she was engaged in transporting Chinese laborers between China and Peru. Her ultimate fate is unknown.
A closely related painting of the clipper
Dashing Wave is in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. Another painting of Golden West by J.B. Smith of Brooklyn, done in 1857 for her captain, is illustrated in The American Neptune Pictorial Supplement #1 (1959) as plate XXVI. It is also in the Peabody Essex collection.
According to Artists of New Bedford A Biographical Dictionary
by Mary Jean Blasdale (The New Bedford Whaling Museum, New Bedford, Mass., 1990), p. 46-47, William Bradford was born in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Despite his parents' efforts to guide him into a family business career, his childhood interests in art prevailed, and in the 1850s Bradford was selling ship portraits in New Bedford for $25 apiece. Bradford's artistic endeavors were spent working in Swampscott and Nahant and he then established a studio in Boston, where he worked for several winters. In 1869, Bradford made a notable expedition to the Arctic onboard the steamer Panther. Following this trip, he produced a book titled The Arctic Regions, a folio volume published in 1873 in England under the patronage of the British Royalty, including Queen Victoria.
Bradford went to Boston to produce 10 known paintings of large merchant clipper ships, mostly between 1852 and 1853. By his own recollection, "Captain Glidden of Boston gave me an order to paint a vessel", presumably for his shipping firm of Glidden and Williams, and probably of
Queen of the Sea or Golden West, both of which he painted in 1853. Golden West did not return to the East Coast until January 1854, supporting the theory of the painting being a depiction of
Golden West's departure from Boston on her maiden voyage. The inscription has been miscopied as "11th month (November) 1853" on the title plaque mounted to the frame. Bradford most likely would have observed and recorded the ship's initial December 1852 departure, completing the painting a month later in January 1853. An overlooked detail of this painting is the unintended "ghosts" of two ships seen on the horizon line between the pilot schooner, likely part of Bradford's original composition but that appear to have been painted over and replaced with smaller versions to create the perspective of greater distance as the work progressed. Richard C. Kugler, director emeritus of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, wrote in June, 2000, regarding the loan of Golden Westfor an upcoming exhibit, 'More than any of the eight other (Bradford) clipper portraits I am acquainted with, I would like your example, thinking it the most classic of its kind'. Kugler further mentions, in a follow-up letter from June 2002, of coming across an interview with Bradford where the artist recalls, "Captain Glidden (senior partner Glidden & Williams) gave me one hundred dollars for a picture about four feet long", quite likely a reference to this 48" wide image.
Compared with his whaleship portraits, those of the clippers are larger in size, perhaps to accommodate their greater length and taller masts, or to match the prevailing standards for painting of this kind in Boston. The largest of them was this painting. The clipper ships have a more formal air about them, with their depiction intent on showing the search for speed under sail. Bradford's paintings of whalers are smaller, with small whaleboats and a different structure and composition from the clipper ships. The clipper ship paintings were made before Bradford's association with the Dutch-trained marine artist Albert Van Beest, who arrived in Boston in 1855.


From the Kelton Collection of Marine Art & Artifacts.
Oil on canvas, 32" x 48". Framed 38.5" x 54.5".

  • Condition: Overall excellent condition. The painting has an old relining. Under UV examination there is a small spot retouching to the upper left and minor spot retouching around the clouds to the right. The surface has a fine, stable craquelure across the entire painting, most evident in the lower corners.

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