Greenlanders Hunting Walrus: View of the Polar Sea, Salon of 1841
Oil on canvas, 51.2 x 64.3 in. (130 x 163.3 cm)
Musée du Chateau, Dieppe, France
During the 1830s, the French government under King Louis Philippe invited artists to participate in polar expeditions to record the unique environment and activities of the crews. Later, artists turned their sketches into paintings and lithographs for illustrated atlases (as seen in the work of Barthelemy Lauvergne included on this site).
Francois-Auguste Biard joined the Commission scientifique du Nord, which traveled as far north as the island of Spitsbergen. His View of the Polar Sea. . . melds fact and fantasy, naturalism and romanticism. Although Biard did not witness an actual hunt, he observed walrus upon the expedition’s return to Norway, where fishermen returned with their catch.
The Arctic environment stimulated Biard’s imagination and freed him from more traditional conceptions of landscape painting. Inspired by the dreamlike qualities of icebergs, many explorers of the Arctic and Antarctica described their strange and marvelous shapes in journals. Biard’s interpretation of ice is not far removed from the photograph of an iceberg by Len Jenshel included on this site.