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Watson and the Shark

John Singleton Copley

Watson and the Shark

John Singleton Copley
  • Date: 1782
  • Style: Romanticism
  • Genre: history painting
  • Media: oil, canvas
  • Tag: famous-people, Brook-Watson
  • Dimensions: 182.1 x 229.7 cm
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John Singleton Copley’s dramatic rendering of a shark attacking 14-year-old Brook Watson caused a sensation when it was exhibited at London’s Royal Academy in 1778. The pictured attack had occurred some 30 years earlier. Watson, an orphan, had unwisely decided to take a dip from a skiff while the ship on which he was crewing docked in Havana Harbor. A shark attacked him, biting his right leg and pulling him under.The boy surfaced briefly before the shark dragged him under a second time, severing his right foot. By the time Watson surfaced again, his mates had nearly reached him. Copley depicts the boy’s climactic rescue: just as the shark zeroed in for its third strike, a determined crewmate armed with a boat hook drove it away.

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