The Whale again


Reading Moby Dick at the moment, and thoroughly enjoying it, so I felt the need to look again at Rockwell Kent’s tremendous illustrations. The Rockwell Kent Gallery at the Plattsburgh State Art Museum doesn’t have a complete set of these, unfortunately, but there’s more of them than in the Flickr set I pointed to earlier. The thing to do, of course, is to order an illustrated edition of the book…

Meanwhile, Philip Hoare’s non-fiction account of his whale obsession, Leviathan, or The Whale, is receiving renewed attention now it’s out in paperback. I love this description of a humpback whale “breaching”:

For a split second the animal appeared like some vast and improbable whale-angel against the sky, its huge, gnarled flippers outstretched like wings. Every detail was visible. I saw its great ribbed belly, the rorqual pleats that expand when feeding. I saw the barnacles on its skin, the parasites that hold fast to the animal, making it a travelling colony of its own. Then, as if someone had taken their finger off the pause button, the animal bowed to gravity and fell back into the sea, creating a splash that resounded for miles.

Forgetting that I was surrounded by schoolchildren, I blurted out an inadvertent, “Fuck!” Hardly an erudite response, but I challenge anyone to be indifferent to a close encounter with a whale. I have seen grown men cry at their first sight of a cetacean. They simply exist in another universe; aliens occupying vast oceans of which we have less knowledge than we do of the surface of the moon. To see a whale is a privilege. But it can also become an obsession. This spring, I succeeded in a long-held ambition: to watch right whales from the shore.

Read more of that here.

More whale art by Ivan Chermayeff and another whale feature at the NYT

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Rockwell Kent’s Moby Dick

2 thoughts on “The Whale again”

  1. Many thanks for the Rockwell Kent posting. Yesterday I looked for a copy of the book at abe books, and the parcel arrived today. (Fast service!) It’s a beautiful editon. I haven’t read the novel since I was a very young man, but this copy is for my partner Peter, who announced just last week that he’d never read it and probably should.

    The edition of Peter Shaffer’s Equus that I illustrated for the Old Stile Press is nearing completion, and will shortly be heading for the binders. It’s been so long from conception to birth that I can hardly credit the time that’s passed. I’ll let you know when it emerges. But this year I also did my first commercial jacket cover, for Marly Youmans novel Val/Orson. You can see it here:


  2. Hi Clive. Yes, Abe is where I’d go for the Kent edition (which reminds me…)

    I’m pleased to see your painting has survived a PS Publishing layout. Some of their earlier books had a tendency to place the type in a rather haphazard fashion on the cover art. (It should be noted that they’ve improved a lot over the years.) Once again it’s a very small world; intro by Catherynne Valente, one of Jeff VanderMeer’s collaborators. I’ve been working a lot with Jeff this year on his own books and other things.

    And please do keep me posted about Equus. Looking forward to that a great deal.

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