edward seago - the icebreaker "the john biscoe“ approaching the lemaire channel, grahamland, antarctica

Ref. 1071
Oil on Canvas
66 x 91 cm (25 x 35 inches)
In 1956 Prince Phillip , having just closed the Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia, took the Royal Yacht “ Britannia “ on a four week cruise of Antarctica to visit the whaling stations and scientific outposts that the British had established earlier in the Century. He took a handful of travelling companions with him including Edward Seago with whom he shared the common interest of painting. Because “ Britannia had not been strengthened for going through the ice, an icebreaker “ The John Biscoe “ was also part of the convoy in order that the Royal Party could safely go ashore. During the voyage Seago painted around forty oils. It was too cold for watercolours as everything froze! At the end of the voyage, Seago presented all his paintings to Prince Phillip. They are currently displayed along the corridors of Balmoral. However, Seago did present one painting “ The John Biscoe approaching the Lemaire Channel “ to the Mess of the John Biscoe. At the end of his tour the Captain of the John Briscoe took this painting with him . It’s whereabouts is currently unknown. Ten years later, when Seago learned about the missing painting, he painted it again and sent it to the John Biscoe . Seago had a photographic memory and could reproduce exact replicas of work that he had done several years before. In Jean Goodman’s excellent biography of Seago, she relates how Prince Phillip describes how if both paintings had been seen side by side , nobody could tell the difference between them.

Our painting is the replacement of the missing one. We know this because it is painted on canvas whereas all of the oils done in the Antarctic were done on board. Also there is a label on the reverse of our painting stating that it came from The Dutch House, Ludham where Seago lived for so many years. None of the Antarctic views now at Balmoral have this label on the reverse. The John Biscoe was broken up in 1991 and the painting became available. Seago painted a few other views of Antarctica when he got back yo Norfolk. One is currently hanging in the entrance hall of The Royal Geographic Society’s building in Kensington. We have also seen a couple of watercolours. This painting is however a wonderful example of Seago’s work and has a rarity which makes it all the more interesting.

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