J. M. W. Turner. Letter to Elhanan Bicknell. January 31, 1845 [see Refs. Armstrong 1902 and Butlin and Joll 1977], writes that "I have a whale or two on canvas".
John James Ruskin. Letter to John Ruskin. September 19, 1845 [see Ref. Shapiro 1972], writes that "[Bicknell] found Water Colour in Whalers [probably this picture] & rubbed out some with Handky. He went to Turner who looked Daggers & refused to do anything, but at last he has taken it back to alter. Roberts admires the picture but all say it is not finished. They account for his hurry & disregard for future fame by putting Water Colours by his stronger passion, love of money. I am sorry he sacrifices his great fame to present effect & object".
"A Scamper through the Exhibition of the Royal Academy." Punch (May 1845), p. 233.
"Royal Academy." The Times (May 6, 1845), p. 6.
The Spectator (May 10, 1845).
The Spectator (May 24, 1845).
"Fine Arts: Royal Academy." Literary Gazette (May 17, 1845), p. 314.
Michel Angelo Titmarsh [W. M. Thackeray]. "Picture Gossip." Fraser's Magazine (June 1845), pp. 720–21.
Morning Chronicle (May 7, 1845).
John Ruskin. Modern Painters. Vol. 1, 3rd ed. London, 1846, pp. 135–36, calls the whaling pictures exhibited in 1845 "altogether unworthy" of Turner.
John Burnet and Peter Cunningham. Turner and His Works. London, 1852, p. 120, no. 234, claim that both of the Whalers exhibited in 1845 were painted for Bicknell.
Walter Thornbury. The Life of J. M. W. Turner, R.A. London, 1862, vol. 2, pp. 383, 402.
Charles W. Deschamps. Letter to Henry G. Marquand. November 22, 1886, states his uncle, Gambart, bought in the picture for John Miller at his sale of 1858, and [erroneously] that on Miller's death it was sold to Sir Donald Currie [see Ref. Joll 1980].
Francis Seymour Haden. Letter to Samuel P. Avery. October 23, 1887, states that it has never been engraved, and that it belonged to Munro of Novar; asks £2,300 for it.
Francis Seymour Haden. Letter to Samuel P. Avery. March 30, 1895, reports that the picture is en route to New York.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Hand-Book No. 1: The Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection and Other Modern Paintings. New York, 1896, p. 10, no. 11, incorrectly gives the dimensions as 56 x 42 in.
"Metropolitan Museum of Art: New Purchases and Loans." New York Times (May 4, 1896), p. 4, states that it was purchased by Dr. Munro from the Royal Academy exhibition of 1846.
William Sharp. "The Art Treasures of America (Concluded.)." Living Age, 7th ser., 1 (December 3, 1898), pp. 603–4.
Arthur Hoeber. The Treasures of The Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York. New York, 1899, p. 70.
C. F. Bell. A List of the Works Contributed to Public Exhibitions by J. M. W. Turner, R.A. London, 1901, p. 152, no. 250, icorrectly refers to the Woolmer picture as a separate, smaller version, 18 x 24 in.; points out that the present picture should not be subtitled "Hurrah for the Whaler Erebus".
Walter Armstrong. Turner. London, 1902, pp. 158, 175, 236, quotes the January 31, 1845 note from Turner to Bicknell [see Ref.].
Robert Chignell. J. M. W. Turner, R.A. London, 1902, p. 203.
E. T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, ed. The Works of John Ruskin. Vol. 3, London, 1903, pp. 250–52.
W. L. Wyllie. J. M. W. Turner. London, 1905, p. 134.
P[ercy]. M[oore]. Turner. "Pictures of the English School in New York." Burlington Magazine 22 (February 1913), p. 275.
Chauncey Brewster Tinker. Painter and Poet: Studies in the Literary Relations of English Painting, The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures for 1937–1938. Cambridge, Mass., 1938, pp. 158, 160, cites Beale's Natural History of the Sperm-Whale (1838; 2nd ed., 1839), with its woodcuts, as Turner's source for the Whaler series.
A. J. Finberg. The Life of J. M. W. Turner, R.A. Oxford, 1939, pp. 407, 409, 509, no. 564, states this was the one picture sold out of Turner's six 1845 Royal Academy exhibits.
T[homas]. S[herrer]. R[oss]. Boase. "Shipwrecks in English Romantic Painting." Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 22 (July–December 1959), p. 344, pl. 34d, notes the influence of Beale's text; observes that the reference to Erebus comes from Dr. John Richardson's Zoology of the Voyage of H. M. S. Erebus and Terror, of which part V was in Turner's library; calls a picture on loan to the Fogg a preliminary sketch.
Claus Virch. "'Ye Mists and Exhalations That Now Rise'." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 20 (April 1962), p. 253.
Jack Lindsay. J. M. W. Turner: His Life and Work. Greenwich, Conn., 1966, p. 192, suggests that Turner may have been inspired by having seen or heard of the 14 1/2 foot whale caught off Deptford in October 1842.
Harold I. Shapiro, ed. Ruskin in Italy: Letters to his Parents, 1845. Oxford, 1972, p. 82 n. 4, p. 230 n. 3, p. 248 n. 2, presumes this picture to have been the subject of Turner's quarrel with Bicknell.
Harold Beaver, ed. Moby-Dick; or, The Whale. By Herman Melville. Harmondsworth, England, 1972, p. 711, pl. 9.
Martin Butlin, Andrew Wilton, and John Gage. Turner, 1775–1851. Exh. cat., Tate Gallery. London, 1974, pp. 140, 146, 171, note the related material in the Whalers sketchbook, T.B.CCCLIII-6–14, and mention also a watercolor at the Fitzwilliam Museum (PD.116.1950) which may come from T.B.CCCLVII of May 1845, suggest that Bicknell could have introduced Turner to Beale's book in about 1840.
Luke Herrmann. Turner: Paintings, Watercolors, Prints & Drawings. Boston, 1975, pp. 53–54, 234.
Malcolm Cormack. J. M. W. Turner, R.A., 1775–1851: A Catalogue of Drawings and Watercolours in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Cambridge, 1975, pp. 74–75 n. 1, connects the Fitzwilliam watercolor with the whaling pictures and dates it 1845.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll. The Paintings of J. M. W. Turner. New Haven, 1977, vol. 1, pp. 63, 235–38, 242, 244, 259, no. 415; vol. 2, pl. 399, suggest that it was painted for Bicknell and redate Turner's letter to him from June 31 to January 31, 1845 [see Ref. Armstrong 1902]; explain the past confusion over the titles, relate the painting to Beale's third story in the Natural History, an incident of June 18, 1832.
Francis L. Fennell Jr. The Rossetti-Leyland Letters: The Correspondence of an Artist and his Patron. Athens, Ohio, 1978, p. 64, letter no. 79, p. 105 n. 1, notes that the picture, mentioned in a letter of May 31, 1874, was to be sold by Leyland at Christie's on June 13.
Evelyn Joll. Letter to Hilary Ney. March 21, 1980, dismisses the possibility of Currie's ownership in 1886.
Andrew Wilton. Turner and the Sublime. Exh. cat., Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. London, 1980, p. 153 n. 1.
Luke Herrmann. "Turner and the Sea." Turner Studies: His Art and Epoch 1775–1851 1 (1981), p. 15.
Richard S. Moore. That Cunning Alphabet: Melville's Aesthetics of Nature. Amsterdam, 1982, p. 129, pl. IX.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll. The Paintings of J. M. W. Turner. rev. ed. New Haven, 1984, vol. 1, pp. 72, 85–86, 260–63, 267, 271, 289, no. 415; vol. 2, colorpl. 425.
John Pope-Hennessy. "Roger Fry and The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Oxford, China, and Italy: Writings in Honour of Sir Harold Acton on his Eightieth Birthday. Ed. Edward Chaney and Neil Ritchie. London, 1984, p. 231.
Peter Bicknell. "Turner's The Whale Ship: A Missing Link?" Turner Studies: His Art & Epoch 1775–1851 5 (Winter 1985), pp. 20–23, pl. 1, cover ill. (color detail), mentions a print after William John Huggins and proposes that Huggins's painting, A Whaler in the South Sea Fishery of about 1830–35, still in the collection of the Bicknell family, was Turner's visual source.
Robert K. Wallace. "The 'sultry creator of Captain Ahab': Herman Melville and J. M. W. Turner." Turner Studies: His Art & Epoch 1775–1851 5 (Winter 1985), pp. 8–9, 11–16, 18 n. 59, p. 19 nn. 80, 82, 85, 86, ill. on cover (color detail), suggests that Melville had the painting in mind while describing a picture in the Spouter-Inn in Moby-Dick, 1851, and believes he must have known it "very well," from having seen it in person in 1849 or from secondary sources.
Barry Venning. "Turner's Whaling Subjects." Burlington Magazine 127 (February 1985), pp. 75–83, fig. 10, is of the opinion that the four whaling pictures were "planned from the start as a quartet," describes where Turner departs from p. 175 of Beale's text, and relates the "elegiac quality" of the painting to the vicissitudes of the whaling industry.
Peter Bicknell and Helen Guiterman. "The Turner Collector: Elhanan Bicknell." Turner Studies: His Art & Epoch 1775–1851 7 (Summer 1987), p. 39, state that the four pictures of whalers "never ended up in the Bicknell collection" but "may have been commissioned by Elhanan, and at any rate were probably painted in the hope that he would buy them" while noting that this work "passed through [his] hands".
Andrew Wilton. Turner in his Time. New York, 1987, pp. 233, 243, 252 n. 303, fig. 303, notes that it "seems to derive much of its detail" from Huggins's painting.
Robert K. Wallace. "The Antarctic Sources for Turner's 1846 Whaling Oils." Turner Studies: His Art & Epoch 1775–1851 8 (Summer 1988), pp. 20–21, 29, fig. 6 (detail).
Robert K. Wallace. Melville & Turner: Spheres of Love and Fright. Athens, Ga., 1992, pp. 12, 175, 296, 306, 322–23, 325–30, 467, 469, 479, 496, 516, 518, 520, 532, 534, 540, 542–46, 548–50, 552–58, 561–62, 588, 599 n. 19, colorpl. 2, ill. p. 475 and fig. 154 (details).
James Hamilton. Turner: A Life. London, 1997, p. 297, states that Bicknell "suggested, and possibly commissioned," the four whaling subjects.
Anthony Bailey. Standing in the Sun: A Life of J. M. W. Turner. London, 1997, p. 358.
Evelyn Joll in The Oxford Companion to J. M. W. Turner. Ed. Evelyn Joll et al. Oxford, 2001, pp. 24, 187, asserts that Bicknell acquired but probably did not commission it.
Robert K. Wallace in The Oxford Companion to J. M. W. Turner. Ed. Evelyn Joll et al. Oxford, 2001, pp. 377–79, 414, notes that whales and whaling were "unlikely subjects" for the Royal Academy in 1845, that this picture was the only one of the four to be sold in Turner's lifetime, and that its acquisition by the MMA initiated its early and extended public exposure.
David Blayney Brown. Turner in the Tate Collection. London, 2002, p. 162.
James Hamilton. Turner: The Late Seascapes. Exh. cat., Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Mass. New Haven, 2003, pp. 57, 99, 103–6, 149 n. 27, p. 155, ill. p. 88 (color detail), fig. 56 (color).
Ian Warrell in J. M. W. Turner. Ed. Ian Warrell. Exh. cat., Washington National Gallery of Art. London, 2007, pp. 188, 194, 197, 199–200, 203, 259, no. 144, ill. (color).
Franklin Kelly in J. M. W. Turner. Ed. Ian Warrell. Exh. cat., Washington National Gallery of Art. London, 2007, pp. 242–43.
Rebecca A. Rabinow in Masterpieces of European Painting, 1800–1920, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, pp. 23, 309–10, no. 21, ill. (color and black and white).
Katharine Baetjer. British Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575–1875. New York, 2009, pp. 233–37, no. 114, ill. (color).
Christine Riding in Christine Riding and Richard Johns. Turner & the Sea. Exh. cat., National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. London, 2013, pp. 244, 268–69, no. 139, ill. (color), reviews both contemporary criticism and private reactions to its appearance at the Royal Academy exhibition of 1845; notes that he produced several sketches of whales and whalers in his Channel, Ambleteuse, and Wimereux sketchbooks of about 1845; states that the passage in Beale's "Natural History" to which Turner referred in his accompanying note to the painting at the Royal Academy in 1845 evoked the kind of hopeless endeavor typically of interest to the painter; links Melville's emphasis on the "whiteness of the whale" in "Moby Dick" to the dominant white tones of Turner's four whaling pictures of 1845–46.
Sam Smiles in Christine Riding and Richard Johns. Turner & the Sea. Exh. cat., National Maritime Museum. London, 2013, ill. p. 273 (color detail).