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My pinacoteca

Watson and the Shark (detail)

Painting of the day:

John Singleton Copley
Watson and the Shark
(detail) ~ 1778
National Gallery of Art

5 replies on “Watson and the Shark (detail)”

Actually it’s a very well-known masterpiece (I admired it for the first time on a book in 1963). What you see above is only a detail of the whole painting.

This painting is taken from an actual event. The person in the water is an orphan boy who was working on his Uncle’s boat. He was attacked by sharks which took out a chunk of flesh and also his foot in a second attack.

The kid was rescued by the boat and lived a long life and was Mayor of London.

I have been searching for a picture I remember from childhood, that was in a magazine called SAGA. It may have been a second hand copy therefore it may have been dated between late 40s to mid 60s. I don’t think this is connected to the British Saga magazine that caters for seniors holidays and insurance etc! It was a rather lurid middle page spread of a painting, featuring a very large shark. In the corner of the painting was a small frogman whose foot had been bitten off.

I have a book about Ray Bradbury and his illustrators and I am wondering if the artwork was by one of these. Possibly the artist had been inspired by this painting, though probably because I’m an adult now I must say that “Watson and the Shark” isn’t half as scary! I was very pleased to learn that the boy survived.

If anybody knows of any reference to the picture I describe above, please let me know as I am writing a short story based on this image and it would be very interesting to see how memory of such vivid images distorts, or remains true through the decades.

Many thanks.

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