William Bradford

(American, 1823 - 1892)

The marine painter William Bradford, a descendant of William Bradford, the Pilgrim governor of Plymouth Colony from 1621 to 1657, was born in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. After his clothing store in New Bedford went bankrupt in 1852, he began to paint portraits of ships in the harbor, many of which were whalers. Bradford eventually settled in New York, where he exhibited at the National Academy of Design from 1860 to 1890. Bradford is best remembered for his views of the Arctic, especially Labrador, where he traveled seven times during the 1860s, culminating in his most ambitious voyage in 1869. That year he hired a ship called The Panther and sailed into Melville Bay, Greenland, accompanied by the well known arctic explorer Dr. Isaac Hayes and two professional photographers. Bradford made numerous sketches of his exotic surroundings that, along with photographs, served as the basis for the oil paintings.