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William Bradford (American, 1823-1892)


Birth Place: Fairhaven (Bristol county, Massachusetts, United States)

Born in 1823, William Bradford grew up in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where whaling and other marine industries were the region’s primary sources of commerce. His Quaker parents disapproved of his aspirations to become a working artist, so he practiced sketching in his spare time as a clerk in his father’s shop.

His passion served as no more than a diversion until adulthood when he finally took a more proactive approach and began selling his maritime portraits for twenty-five dollars apiece in the early 1850s. It only took Bradford several years to save enough money to open his own studio, around which time he caught the eye of Dutch painter, Albert Van Beest. Van Beest took Bradford under his wing, and the two painted local landscapes together until he passed away in 1860.

Following the death of his mentor, Bradford expanded his travels beyond the United States and became particularly fascinated with the Arctic region. He also traveled extensively throughout the western United States, taking photographs of his various surroundings along the way. Accordingly, Bradford would often refer to his snapshots while painting, not as a crutch to replace his own memory but rather as a tool to help him recapture the panoramas in his mind.

Bradford used his creative license to complement his seascapes and marine vessels with atmospheric tones, expressive clouds and vibrant skies reflecting on the rippling tides, which gave his realistic style an impressionistic touch.

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