Copley Watson and the Shark
Copley is known to be one of the most famous American painters. This painting was commissioned by Brook Watson, who was, “a wealthy London merchant and Tory politician, in 1778. Copley’s painting dramatizes an episode of 1749, in which the 14-year-old Watson was attacked by a shark while swimming the Havana Harbor, and lost part of his right leg before being rescued by his comrades (Stokstad 931). He moved to England to be able to become a revolution. This painting takes place in Cuba, specifically the Havana Harbor, where a British merchant ship anchored in the bay. This group of people that is pictured in this painting took a rowboat out from the shore. Watson, the man in the water, decided to take a dip and while he was in the water a shark bit off one of his legs. After his leg got bitten of, he was about to be eaten whole head first by the shark. The people in the boat appear to be trying to help. There are two people reaching out trying to grab his arm, there is a man who has a harpoon trying to kill the shark before he consumes Watson, and then there is a black man who has thrown rope out for Watson to grab onto. This painting is the first to have an African-American man being pictured in an American painting.
This painting shows strong emotion with how the people in the boat are attempting different ways to try and save Watson from being eaten alive by the shark. Their expressions show they are worried, and Watsons face shows distress as he is about to be bitten again. In this time they did not know much about sharks, but he did the best painting based off of what he knew. That is why here, this shark is pictured with big pink lips which we now know that sharks do not look this way. This painting was Copley’s most distinctive painting.
Copley was known for using romanticism, which is associated with using bold colors which make it look unrealistic. The people who were part of the Romantic...