Exhibition features artwork documenting American maritime legacy

George Gale: ‘A Sea-nurtured Artist’ Through January 2020


NEW BEDFORD, Mass – A new exhibition at the New Bedford Whaling Museum highlights the whaling and maritime themes explored by artist George Albert Gale (1893-1951), one of the last important artists to document New Bedford’s whale fishery from firsthand observation. George Gale: ‘A Sea-nurtured Artist’ showcases artwork with elements of grace and subtlety of position; work that celebrates maritime skills and constitutes a lasting documentary of the legacy of maritime America. Some commenters on Gale’s work use the phrase “brute force,” to describe the vision reflected in his art. His dynamic images of whale ships and whaling scenes include detailed renderings of sailors at work in the rigging and at the try works, dolphins in the sea, views of ships, boats, and schooners, and thus provide a unique artistic insight into the failing days of the whaling industry. The Whaling Museum is located at 18 Johnny Cake Hill, New Bedford, Massachusetts. The exhibition is on view until January 2020.  

George Gale: ‘A Sea-nurtured Artist,’ features etchings and watercolors from the collection of James Harvie of Topsham, Maine, who was a boyhood neighbor, friend, and admirer of Gale when they both lived in Barrington, Rhode Island. Objects from the Whaling Museum collection augment the artworks.

Gale entered the Rhode Island School of Design in 1919, where he studied oil painting, watercolor, and etching. He achieved his greatest success as a marine artist through his etchings. The medium enabled him to build near-photographic verisimilitude with all the drama and intensity inherent in his subjects. His own experiences and an extraordinary level of documentary research gave him a detailed understanding of New Bedford’s maritime culture in the early 1920s: details that emerged fully integrated into his formal works, and their lineage can be traced through his sketches.

Born in Bristol, Rhode Island, Gale went to sea in 1914. He sailed on square-riggers, worked at the Herreshoff yacht yard, and sailed onboard the schooner Coral of New Bedford on a coastal voyage. He worked on the ferry between Bristol and Portsmouth, Rhode Island before the Mount Hope Bridge was built in 1929. During the First World War he served as quartermaster on the transport SS Hawaiian in convoy and watched as the ship New Sweden was torpedoed off Alboran Island in the Mediterranean Sea. Two of his personal journals from this period, held in the Whaling Museum library, clearly demonstrate his extensive experience as a deep-sea sailor, his sense of humor, and acuity for nautical details. Elements from these sketches, or sometimes even the main subjects of the sketches themselves, turned up years later in his more formal works.


About the New Bedford Whaling Museum
The New Bedford Whaling Museum is the world's most comprehensive museum devoted to the global story of human interaction with whales through time, and the history and culture of the South Coast region. The cornerstone of New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, the Museum is located at 18 Johnny Cake Hill in the heart of the city's historic downtown. Museum hours: January through March, Tuesday – Saturday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.; April through December, daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Museum is open until 8 p.m. every second Thursday of the month. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.  Admission is: Free for Museum members and children aged three and under; adults $17, seniors (65+) $15, students (19+) $10, child and youth $7. For more information, visit www.whalingmuseum.org.

Media and Images Contact:
Tina Malott
Director of Marketing and Public Relations
New Bedford Whaling Museum


Caption: George Albert Gale, Discharging the Oil, undated. Etching on paper, numbered “12”

Combining Gale’s three favorite themes, nautical New Bedford, whaling, and horses, Discharging the Oil offers a superb glimpse into the mind and perceptions of its maker. Few such images exist of the process by which the large casks of oil, some as large as 200 gallons and weighing one ton, were raised from the hold of the ship and deposited onto the wharves.

discharging the oil