Inner Light: The World of William Bradford

July 1, 2016-May 2017
Retrospective Exhibition at New Bedford Whaling Museum

For high-res images contact Gayle Hargreaves

NEW BEDFORD, Mass – Inner Light: The World of William Bradford, a retrospective exhibition of William Bradford’s (1923-1892) life, career, connections and influences opens at the New Bedford Whaling Museum on July 1, 2016 and runs until May 2017. A highlight of the exhibition is the debut of Bradford’s 1854 oil painting Schooner Ellenor, Boston, a recent gift from Herbert and Patricia Pratt. The painting is an important addition to the Museum’s Bradford Collection, which is one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive of the artist’s work. The Museum hosts an opening reception on Friday, July 1 from 6-8 p.m., which is free and open to the public. Inner Light is dedicated to the memory of Richard C. Kugler, who served as the Whaling Museum’s Director from 1967 to 1988.

A native son of Old Dartmouth, Bradford’s affiliations with some of the most prominent artists, collectors and thinkers of his time placed him in an influential role at the center of culture and fine art in the mid-19th century. Inner Light explores Bradford’s connections, among them Albert van Beest, who shared Bradford’s studio in Fairhaven and brought the Dutch marine tradition to New Bedford, and Albert Bierstadt, who painted in an adjoining studio space in New York City. Bradford later followed Bierstadt to Yosemite Valley. Fitz Henry Lane, considered one of America’s most important painters in the Luminist style, was a significant influence on Bradford’s work.  Other connections include Transcendentalist Daniel Ricketson, poets Henry David Thoreau and John Greenleaf Whittier.  

Bradford’s “great paintings,” such as the Museum’s Sealers Crushed in Ice, belonged to a new tradition forged in the mid-19th century age of spectacle, when cycloramas, panoramas and World’s Fairs vied to entertain audiences with the wonders of man’s innovations, adventure and nature.

 Like many other artists of his time, Bradford was an artist-explorer. He made six trips to the Arctic between 1861 and 1869, and ventured to California and the great West on the heels of Bierstadt. Other artists of this genre included Frederic Church and Martin Johnson Heade. These efforts looked towards an “alternative past” that glorified nature in a pre-industrialized and an almost exclusively American experience. Their empirical realism and wordless dialogue with nature were the hallmarks of Luminism.

Inner Light includes Bradford works from the Museum’s collections along with works by Bierstadt, Eldred, Gifford and others who were integral parts of his story. An accompanying exhibition of important manuscripts, sketchbooks, and works on paper will also be on display in the Museum’s Grimshaw-Gudewicz Reading Room.

A catalog featuring essays by Whaling Museum Curator Dr. Christina Connett, Barbara Moss and Keith Kauppila accompanies the exhibition. The catalog includes works not previously reproduced in earlier catalogs on the artist.

Inner Light runs concurrently with the New Bedford Art Museum’s exhibition Bierstadt: Nature & National Identity, which runs from June 3 – Sept 18, 2016. Several artifacts from the New Bedford Whaling Museum collection are on loan for the Bierstadt exhibition.


Contact: Gayle Hargreaves
Director of Marketing
New Bedford Whaling Museum
508-997-0046 Ext. 139 (office)


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 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 $16, seniors (65+) $14, students (19+) $9, child and youth $6. For more information, visit