Franklin D. Briscoe, Off Cape May

Franklin D. Briscoe: Off Cape May (c. 1870) Oil on canvas
Off Cape May
c. 1870
Oil on canvas
Credit Line
Gift of Mrs. Richard J. Walsh, 2003
12 x 18 in.

Though small in scale, this painting is a commanding portrayal of the human struggle for survival against the forces of nature. In the center, a lifeboat is filled with people bracing the wind and perilous waves. They are dwarfed by the sea and sky. Bits of red and yellow in the men’s shirts draw attention to their intense, physical struggle. A small bird flies above the water, emphasizing the fragility of life. In contrast, an abandoned ship in the background suggests futility. Franklin D. Briscoe knew the power of the sea firsthand: his travels around the world by ship served as inspiration for his marine paintings.

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