Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    The Hon. Paul H. Buchanan, Jr. Collection

    WILLIAM BRADFORD (American, 1823-1892)

    Near Cape St. Johns, Coast of Labrador, 1874
    Oil on mahogany prepared panel, label verso: Windsor and Newton, London
    14 x 24 inches (35.6 x 61.0 cm)
    Signed and dated lower right: Wm Bradford / 74

    Sotheby's, New York, May 30, 1985, lot 29;
    Purchased from Kenneth Lux, New York, September 2, 1986 (label verso).

    The American marine painter William Bradford was to the arctic what Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran were to the American West: a pioneering adventurer. In 1861, following the death of his close friend and erstwhile artistic collaborator, Albert Van Best, and just before the Civil War began, the Massachusetts-born Bradford decided to sail for Labrador, where he could paint and photograph icebergs. His interest in icebergs from an artistic standpoint followed closely upon the heels of Frederic Church's remarkable painting of the subject. However, William Bradford's sensibility yielded a different type of image from Church's theatrical vision of colossal frozen mountains: his icebergscapes were far more realistic presentations of the icy forms within their actual settings. He paid close attention to the unusual effects of northern light.

    Bradford made trips north every summer, with only one exception, between 1861 and 1869. The excursions of 1865 and 1869 were particularly well-documented through a careful log and an elegant book published after the 1869 trip. In addition to the written descriptions of the Labrador and Greenland coasts, Bradford make records of the types and nature of icebergs, Eskimo life, and polar bears. The hundreds of photographs and sketches he produced provided him with material he would mine for years to come.

    Bradford's Labrador landscape of 1874 in the Buchanan collection shows icebergs offshore at sunrise. Banks of heavy clouds and fog partially obscure the green hills and the little harbor on the left, while the sun is just beginning to rise off to the right, outside the frame of the image. Fishing boats are just setting out, and a few have already gotten as far as the icebergs on the right. The icebergs are small features within this composition which is as unassuming as Bradford's views along the gentle curve of Narragansett Bay. Only their strange bright profiles signal this scene as something more exotic than the New England coast. To heighten the impact of the icebergs within this work, Bradford painted the them with thick impasto, and contrasted their bright white highlights and intense blue shadows against the green of the hillside, and the orange-tinted rocks and water reflecting the rising sun. One of the most magnificent passages in the painting are the shallows on the right. With a palette of delicate oranges, browns and greens - and virtually no blue at all - Bradford used crisp linework to describe the ripples on the water as well as the hints of rocks and stones beneath the surface. This careful style of rendering gradually disappeared from Bradford's work during the course of the 1870's, after his popularity soared following his sale of a painting to Queen Victoria in 1875. His technique became broader and his imagery became, to some extent, more grandiose.

    A closely related work by Bradford depicting the same site from a vantage point opposite this one is in the collection of the Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, Amherst Massachusetts (Gift of Herbert W. Plimpton: The Hollis W. Plimpton (Class of 1915) Memorial Collection). Also dated 1874, the Mead Art Museum's painting entitled Near Castle Island, the Coast of Labrador is also on mahogany panel and measures a slightly smaller 12 x 20 inches.

    Condition Report*: Under visual examination the painting appears to be in very good condition.  The painting is oil on a Windsor-Newton prepared wood panel that is flat and plane.  The varnish layer has an "orange peel" texture caused by applying thick layers of varnish with inadequate dry time between coats.  Under UV light, the original oxidized varnish fluoresces bright green and seems to be fully intact on the surface. There are very several fine lines of inpainting in the lower left quadrant, likely applied to minimize the appearance of the wood grain from the panel. Minimal inpainting is visible along the edges where the frame rabbet touches the painting surface and is also done very nicely. This report was completed by Carlos Espinosa, CIPP at Las Negras Studio, LLC Dallas, TX
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2009
    10th-11th Wednesday-Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 5,878

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

    Shipping, Taxes, Terms and Bidding
    This item cannot be shipped using standard methods. Please contact us for more information. Sales Tax information

    Important information concerning Sales Tax and Resale Certificates. Learn More

    Terms and Conditions  |  Bidding Guidelines and Bid Increments |  Glossary of Terms

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Only 5 days left to consign to the 2020 March 26 Art of the West Signature Auction - Dallas!

    Learn about consigning with us

    I sent out several inquiries, but Moyun is the primary reason I went with Heritage. She is extremely knowledgeable.
    Linda H.,
    Washington, D.C.
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2014 November 21 Tiffany, Lalique & Art Glass Signature Auction
    2014 November 21 Tiffany, Lalique & Art Glass Signature Auction
    REALIZED $1,441,296
    2014 November 17 American Art Signature Auction
    2014 November 17 American Art Signature Auction
    REALIZED $6,712,638
    2014 November 14 American Indian Art , Pre-Columbian, & Tribal Art Signature Auction
    2014 Nov 14 American Indian Art, Pre-Columbian & Tribal Art Auction
    REALIZED $441,524
    2014 November 8 Modern & Contemporary Art Signature Auction
    2014 November 8 Modern & Contemporary Art Signature Auction
    REALIZED $5,683,719
    2014 November 6 Silver & Vertu Signature Auction
    2014 November 6 Silver & Vertu Signature Auction
    REALIZED $439,980
    2014 October 18 The Belo Collection of Texas Art Signature Auction
    2014 October 18 The Belo Collection of Texas Art Signature Auction
    REALIZED $624,835
    2014 October 16 Photographs Signature Auction
    2014 October 16 Photographs Signature Auction
    REALIZED $824,108
    2014 September 28 Nature & Science Signature Auction
    2014 September 28 Nature & Science Signature Auction
    REALIZED $1,089,341
    2014 Sept 13-14 Gentleman Collector Signature Estate Auction
    2014 Sept 13-14 Gentleman Collector Signature Estate Auction
    REALIZED $1,725,292
    2019 October 15 Illustration Art Signature Auction - Dallas
    2019 October 15 Illustration Art Signature Auction - Dallas
    REALIZED $2,692,116