Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How Movies, Books and Paintings Helped Sharks Scare The Crap Out of US!

Way Before Jaws And Even Way Before the Movies There Was Watson and the Shark

The Painting below is from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York image archives (recently opened to the public) and is one of many versions of a painting done by British artist Singleton Copley in 1778. The heroic painting, Watson and the Shark, is based on a real incident that happened in Havana in 1749.  Brook Watson, a 14-year old cabin boy fell into the harbour and was attacked by a shark who took off one of this legs.  It took three attempts to rescue him.  He lived  to tell the tale to painter Singleton Copley.

Watson and the Shark
The work was such a huge boost to the artist's career that he gave a smaller version of the painting to Watson.
It was a very stylized painting and there is a suggestion that the staging in the boat was based on the famous (well here in Canada) Death of General Wolfe by West.
In its day the painting caused a real fear of sharks for people living far far away from the Caribbean.  Shark looks extremely fearful but not very real. That is because the artist had never been to Cuba and was thought to never having seen a shark (hence the shark has lips, forward-facing cat's eyes and air blowing out from it's "nostrils".)