The Spouting Whale

Media - 1911.8.2 - SAAM-1911.8.2_1 - 64783
Copied William Morris Hunt, The Spouting Whale, ca. 1870, oil on canvas, 2016 18 in. (50.940.9 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of William T. Evans, 1911.8.2
Free to use

Artwork Details

The Spouting Whale
ca. 1870
Not on view
2016 18 in. (50.940.9 cm)
lower left in oil: (artist's monogram)
Credit Line
Gift of William T. Evans
Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • Landscape
  • Waterscape — boat
  • Waterscape — sea
  • Animal — whale
Object Number

Artwork Description

William Morris Hunt turned his attention to landscape painting during the 1870s, and he traveled as far south as Florida, as far west as Mexico, and north to 'Niagara Falls' in search of great views. Many of his canvases from this time, such as this image of The Spouting Whale, are painted loosely, with broad brushstrokes and indistinct forms. The cloudy sky dominates the image, in which we can just make out a geyser of water from a whale below the surface. Although we cannot see the great creature, Hunt conveyed the whale's power in the dark shadows of the choppy water and the vivid contrasts in the sky. The image evokes a sense of foreboding, as if the whale might surge out of the water at any moment. The Spouting Whale conveys the drama of the seas at a time when many American painters, such as Frederic Edwin Church and Martin Johnson Heade, embarked on voyages to new frontiers.