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The Frank off George's Island, HalifaxEnlarge image

The Frank off George's Island, Halifax, c. 1856

John O'Brien
Canadian, 1831 - 1891
oil on canvas
61.1 x 76.9 cm
Purchased 2006
National Gallery of Canada (no. 41856)

From around 1820 to the mid-1860s, shipbuilding flourished in the Atlantic Provinces. Innumerable builders, owners and captains of ships commissioned portraits of their vessels, and the taste for such paintings was shared by many communities along North America's Eastern seaboard. Considered one of the finest painters working in the Maritimes during the mid-19th century, John O'Brien was a specialist in the genre, and this canvas is one of his most accomplished works. He has portrayed the ship in profile, all sails set, silhouetted against Georges Island, off Halifax, and a vast, grey-blue summer sky scattered with white clouds. The artist has included several human figures in his composition, and the scene is a lively one, full of visual interest. With a touch of playful humour, O'Brien has signed his work on a piece of flotsam floating in the lower right-hand corner.

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