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History Paintings
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Ships in Harbor (Dutch seascape)
By Abraham VerWer (1585-1650)
Painted in The Netherlands, 1620-1640
Material: Oil on canvas

The ships shown in this seascape are the approximate size of the Pilgrims' ill-fated ship, the Speedwell. The Pilgrims sailed from Delftshaven, Holland to England in the Speedwell. The group intended to sail both the Speedwell and the Mayflower to America, but the Speedwell developed leaks and was judged not sufficiently sound for a transatlantic voyage.


Departure of the Pilgrims from Delft Haven
By Charles Lucy (1814-1873)
Painted in England, c1847
Material: Oil on canvas

This scene shows the Separatist band praying together just before their departure from Holland. The central figure is their minister, John Robinson, leading them in prayer. Robinson had to remain in Holland and died before he could join his congregation in Plymouth.

English history painter Charles Lucy won a prize for this painting at the Westminster Hall competition in London in 1847 and exhibited it at the Royal Academy in 1848. Lucy also painted a view of the Pilgrims’ landing, but that work has been lost.


Embarkation of the Pilgrims
By Edgar Parker after Robert Weir, 1875
Material: Oil on canvas

In 1836, the United States government commissioned Robert W. Weir to paint The Picture of the Embarkation of the Pilgrims from Delfthaven in Holland "for filling the vacant panels in the rotunda of the Capital" in Washington, D.C. It was one of several large scale (12’ x 18’) paintings chosen to represent significant historical moments leading to the founding of the American Republic. Completed in 1843, it depicts the Pilgrim families gathered around their pastor, John Robinson, for a farewell service on the deck of the Speedwell before its departure from Holland.
Weir worked on the Embarkation for over seven years. He produced several small-scale studies that are owned by the Pilgrim Society. The Pilgrim Society commissioned Massachusetts artist Edgar Parker to recreate Weir’s well-known painting for the museum in 1875.

This well-known painting can be found on the reverse of the United States $10,000 bill. In the romantic mode of 19th century history painting, the artist has employed symbolism, sentimentality, and theatrical devices for his effect. Arms and armor, for use against the dangers of the New World, lie in the foreground beside a screw that later saved the Mayflower from disaster in a storm at sea. A rainbow, signifying hope, shines brightly through the clouds.


The Mayflower and Speedwell in Dartmouth Harbor
By Leslie Wilcox
Painted in England, 1971
Material: Oil on canvas

The Mayflower, a hired ship, and the Speedwell, owned by the Pilgrims, set out from Southampton. Leaks in the smaller ship forced the pair to put into Dartmouth for repairs. The two ships proceeded to sea, but were forced to return to Plymouth, where the Speedwell was sold. Some of her passengers crowded aboard the Mayflower, while others stayed in England to await passage the next year.

Leslie Wilcox, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Marine Art, was largely self-taught. He became one of Britain’s foremost marine artists.


The Mayflower at Sea
By Gilbert Margeson (1852-1940)

Gilbert Tucker Margeson was born in Nova Scotia and moved to Boston as a child. He was the first artist to open a studio in Rockport, Massachusetts and was well known for his marine paintings.

Margeson claimed descent from Edmund Margeson, a signer of the Mayflower Compact, and he intended this painting to be a salute to him, although Edward Margeson died the first winter, apparently without issue.


The Signing of the Compact in the Cabin of the Mayflower
By Edward Percy Moran (1862-1935) ca. 1900

In this painting, Myles Standish aids William Bradford, who has his pen in his hand. William Brewster and John Carver, elected Governor, sit at the table aboard the Mayflower.

The American artist, Edward Moran, was born in Philadelphia.


The Mayflower on Her Arrival in Plymouth Harbor
By William Formsby Halsall (1841-1919)
Painted in Massachusetts, 1882
Material: Oil on canvas

The Mayflower is shown at dawn after her landing in Plymouth Harbor and is portrayed as a symbol of the beginning of a new era.


The Landing of the Pilgrims
By Michel Felice Corné (1752-1815)
Painted in Salem, MA, 1803-1806
Material: Tempera on canvas

This is one of the earliest images of the Pilgrims and is based on a 1799 engraving by Samuel Hall. Notice that the Pilgrims are wearing trousers and other costume more typical of the early 1800s than the early 1600s. Also, the Pilgrims are being greeted by Natives. Corné and other artists did not have access to Bradford’s journal, where he records that the first meeting between the Pilgrims and the Natives did not take place until four months after the Pilgrims landed.

This is one of several canvases of the same subject painted by Corné during his years in Salem. The works are known more for their romantic charm than for their historical accuracy as they picked up on the theme of Pilgrims as American heroes.


The Landing of the Pilgrims
By Henry A. Bacon (1839-1912)
Painted in 1877
Material: Oil on canvas

The painting depicts Mary Chilton stepping ashore. According to family tradition (although this is without historical foundation), Mary was the first person to set foot on Plymouth Rock. Mary was the 15-year-old daughter of James and Susanna Chilton, both of whom died in the first winter. She married John Winslow in 1624.

Henry Bacon was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and trained in France.


The Landing of the Pilgrims
Anonymous artist, England, 1820
Material: Oil on canvas

This painting was commissioned by Plymouth historian Samuel Davis. It hung at the Pilgrim Society's first Forefathers Day Celebration in 1820. On that occasion, commemorating the 200th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims, Daniel Webster delivered a famous oration.


Landing of the Pilgrims
By Henry Sargent (1770-1845)
Painted in America, 1818-1822
Material: Oil on canvas

This landing scene shows Samoset greeting the Pilgrims as they landed. Actually, the Natives waited three months before contacting the Pilgrims.
Boston artist Henry Sargent first painted the Pilgrims landing around 1815. The painting was exhibited to great acclaim at an exhibition in New York. Soon after, the painting was damaged. Sargent painted this new version between 1818 and 1822.
The painting was loaned to Pilgrim Hall Museum for the 1824 celebration of Forefathers Day (and the opening of the Hall). Historian and curator James Thacher wrote
The procession returned from the meeting house to the hall, where an excellent dinner was provided ... the day closed with a splendid and fully attended ball. The admirable picture of the landing of the Fathers, by Col. Sargent, was by its author placed in the Pilgrim Hall at this celebration.

In 1835, Sargent gave the painting to the Pilgrim Society.


The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth
By Jennie A. Brownscombe (1850-1936)
Painted in Honesdale, PA, or New York, 1914
Material: Oil on canvas

Jennie Brownscombe’s popular interpretation of the First Thanksgiving has become a symbol of the holiday for many Americans. It reached a wide audience and influenced the national understanding when it was printed in Life magazine. Brownscombe clearly conveys the peaceful meeting of the English settlers and the Native Americans.

Painting during the "Colonial Revival Period," Brownscombe chose some details that are inconsistent with history (such as the log cabin and the Sioux feather headdress) to symbolize early America. The entire image, however, with its elements of religious solemnity, feasting and community has a strong emotional appeal even today and shows a Thanksgiving with which early twentieth century Americans would feel comfortable.


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