My Favorite Painting in Washington, DC

Watson and the Shark
Watson and the Shark by John Singleton Copley at the National Gallery of Art.

This spectacular painting seeks to depict an event that took place in Havana, Cuba, in 1749.

The naked guy in the water is fourteen-year-old Brook Watson, who was attacked by a shark while swimming alone in Havana harbor. Lucky for Watson, some of his mates were already at sea waiting to escort their captain ashore, and were able to fight the shark and rescue Watson, although the shark bit one of his legs off.

On his return to England, he got his fifteen minutes of fame and Copley painted this work.

If you study the painting carefully, you will realize that Copley probably had never seen a shark in his life, and his depiction of the great white in Havana harbor yields one of the most ungainly and ugliest non-sharks fish things ever painted.

I love to sit in front of this painting and watch people as they walk by and get mesmerized by the brutal event taking place and kids making fun of the shark.

What is your favorite work of art? Not just DC, but from wherever you [reader] hail from? Leave your favorite in the comments.

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  1. September 3, 2008 @ 3:23 pm

    TWS500 Said,

    Daniel in the Lion’s Den by Peter Paul Rubens in the same National Gallery. There’s so much going on; the scale is grand; the religious message is strong; the lions are wonderful; and the Gallery is the perfect setting. I’ve seen the picture 100’s of times, always loving it.

  2. September 3, 2008 @ 5:17 pm

    sean Said,

    one of my favorites is also at the NGA. Madonna and Child with Saint Martina and Saint Agnes by El Greco


    i feel like its a betrayal of other works i love to say it though.

  3. September 3, 2008 @ 8:56 pm

    Lenny Said,

    Oooooh! Good one…. let me find an image and I’ll post it and discuss it a little more…


  4. September 11, 2008 @ 6:21 am

    Hylla Said,

    van Gogh’s “The Sower” always on view in Amsterdam
    Sometimes simplicity wins out over classical finesse.

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