Day of the Men – Behind the Painting
One of John Chancellor’s earliest and most vivid memories was an incident when, as a five year old living on the north bank of the Tagus, he shared the excitement of the adults around him at the spectacle of a huge fleet of schooners and square riggers setting sail to fish the Grand Banks.
Years later, researching material for his paintings, this childhood memory drew him to the history of these fishing traditions and he was probably the only highly celebrated maritime artist to have a personal memory of these majestic fleets under sail.
The picture shows the departure from St. Malo of les terreneuvas, the French Grand Bank barquentines in the 1920s.
Many small craft filled with local people are milling about to bid them farewell. Ahead of them is the long voyage across the Atlantic and many months of arduous and hazardous fishing for cod in the little dories which can be seen stacked on deck.
John Chancellor’s reputation as a marine artist owes much to his ability to astonish us with heavy weather scenes. Here, by contrast, is a delightful sunny day, the vessels beautifully lit or partly in silhouette, a wistful albeit poignant moment with so many local men leaving their homes for many months.