Oil on canvas; original carved gilt frame
59 1/2 H x 91 1/2 W (w/ frame)
Signed and dated, lower left : 1880-81 WILL H LOW
Will Hicok Low was one of the first Albany residents to join the great migration of American students to Paris after the Civil War, but he'd returned to the US when the commission came for this work, the subject for which was to be "absolutely American." The subject is drawn from John Greenleaf Whittier's poem of the same name. It tells the pessimistic story of a Massachusetts sea captain who refused to rescue a vessel that was sinking off Cape Cod and then was punished by the wives, sisters, and mothers of the seamen who died. Low depicted the peculiarly American practice of "tar and feathering" and kept very close to the actual description in the poem's last stanza. The painting was not well received in Europe, but at home critics generally responded favorably to the work; some considered it Low's finest achievement.