Symposium: Inner Light – The World of William Bradford

Saturday, April 8
9:00 am – 3:30 pm


Cloud Study by William Bradford

Cloud Study, c. 1850s. Oil in card stock, 10 x 14-3/4 in. 00.29.5

The Whaling Museum has the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of works by William Bradford, who has been celebrated in the exhibition Inner Light. To mark the end of this show, participants learned more about the artist and his time. Presentations themes included artist travelers to the Arctic, the age of the “Great” paintings, and the first art exhibition in New Bedford, which included some of the most renowned artists of the day. Bradford was an explorer, a painter, and an entrepreneur whose life provides a fascinating perspective on the arts and culture of the second half of the 19th century. Lively lectures and discussions honored this local artist and some of the greatest masterpieces in the Museum’s collection. Registration: Members: $25  |  Non-members: $35 
Inner Light Symposium Flyer (pdf) 

All six presentations are available on the Museum’s YouTube Lectures Playlist.

Top Banner Caption: Detail of View of the Sermitsialik Glacier, c. 1873. oil on canvas.



9:00 am – 9:45 am       
Registration and Coffee in the Jacobs Family Gallery.
Tour the Bradford exhibition and the Museum with your symposium ticket.

9:45 am – 10:15 am     
Welcome Remarks:
New Bedford Whaling Museum Collection of William Bradford
Dr. Christina Connett, Curator of Exhibitions and Collections
The New Bedford Whaling Museum has the world’s largest and most comprehensive collections of works by William Bradford. Dr. Connett will describe the history of the Bradford Collections at the Museum and highlight pieces of particular significance.
View on YouTube (23:44)

10:15 am – 11:00 am   
William Bradford and His Contemporaries
Barbara Moss, Independent Scholar and Collector
While William Bradford is most widely known for his works in the Arctic, his connections to his contemporaries in the Old Dartmouth region and Boston are largely unknown. Explore his connections with fellow artists Albert Van Beest, R. Swain Gifford, Lemuel Eldred, and others, as well as influences from Boston-based artists Fitz Henry Lane and Robert Salmon.
View on YouTube (40:58)

11:00 am – 11:45 am   
The Art of Exploration: William Bradford and the Mythos of the North
Russell A. Potter, Ph.D., Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, and Professor of English and Director of Media Studies at Rhode Island College
As William Bradford’s career as the artist of the Arctic reached its apex, his work, as well as his social circles, expanded to reach many of the foremost explorers and exploration writers of his era. He met with Dr. John Rae, had dinner with Wilkie Collins (The Frozen Deep), and at one point corresponded with Charles Francis Hall in his quest to find an ideal ship for his artistic voyages (later, in one of the last of his “great paintings,” Bradford would depict Hall’s ship, Polaris, at “Thank God Harbor,” where the explorer met his death). Bradford’s later work followed this turn, drawing increasingly from locations where he had not ventured, and becoming part of the visual mythography of exploration as the attention of the world turned toward the North Pole.
View on YouTube (41:05)

11:45 am – 12:30 pm   
William Bradford’s External Light
Keith Kauppila, Independent Scholar and Curator
William Bradford’s working techniques and signature depiction of light and atmosphere post-1860 emanated from his direct experiential contact with the Arctic. Traditional stylistic development, marked by influence of other artists and increasingly developed technical abilities, characterized the early stages of Bradford’s career. However, the evoked emotions of his exposure to the vibrant atmosphere, colors of light, and ice of the northern latitudes in the 1860’s necessitated new and different methods of painting for Bradford to adequately convey his experience of the Arctic. Adoption of these new modes of painting enabled Bradford to not only transcend from the emotional state to reality in depicting the Arctic, but allowed him to embody the emotional state in his realistic portrayals of the Arctic light and atmosphere.
View on YouTube (36:01)

12:30 pm – 1:30 pm    
Break for Lunch

1:30 pm – 2:00 pm      
Tour of
Inner Light: The World of William Bradford Exhibition
Dr. Christina Connett

2:00 pm – 2:45 pm      
Arctic Regions Photography: Voyages to Greenland, 1869 & 2012
Michael Lapides, Director of Digital Initiatives
In 1869 William Bradford hired two Boston photographers, John Dunmore and George Critcherson, to accompany him on his last and most ambitious journey north. The photographs Dunmore and Critcherson took under his direction on their 1869 voyage aboard the Panther were magnificent and were the first taken by professional photographers in the High Arctic.  Many of these were then tipped into Bradford’s sumptuous book, The Arctic Regions, Illustrated with Photographs Taken on an Art Expedition to Greenland. In August of 2012 Michael Lapides, along with nine other passengers and five crew members, traveled aboard the Wanderbird along the western coast of Greenland retracing sections of Bradford’s voyage. Examine these two voyages through the photographs taken on them with the text from The Arctic Regions as a common thread.
View on YouTube (54:30)

2:45 pm – 3:30 pm      
No Small Event: The 1858 New Bedford Art Exhibition
Janice Hodson,
Curator of Art, New Bedford Free Public Library
In the summer of 1858 John Hopkins and Albert Bierstadt mounted the New Bedford Art Exhibition, an event unlike anything attempted before in the city.  For the first time, residents were able to view canvases by William Bradford, William Allen Wall and other local artists, alongside those of established American and European masters.  Learn how significant the exhibit’s impact was on New Bedford’s cultural community.
View on YouTube (37:30)


The Arctic Regions plate 98

The Arctic Regions (plate 98)

Related Museum Exhibitions, Publications and more

Current Exhibition in the Wattles Family Gallery and Braitmayer Family Gallery
Inner Light: The World of William Bradford Exhibition

Past Exhibitions
Arctic Visions: “Away then Floats the Ice-Island”
100 Years of Mountain Photography – from Vittorio Sella and Bradford Washburn
Following the Panther: Arctic Photographs of Rena Bass Forman
William Bradford: Sailing Ships & Arctic Seas

Related to Symposium: Inner Light
Arctic Visions Blog
Original Arctic Regions eBook online
Arctic Regions on

Museum Publications
Inner Light: The World of William Bradford Catalog
The Arctic Regions: By William Bradford


Last modified: May 12, 2017