History in the Making
The Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art has recently purchased a very rare daguerreotype of St. Georges, which will go on display shortly. It is, in all likelihood, one of the earliest known photographic images of the island. We are confident Henry Whittemore, who was an itinerant American daguerreotypist and travelled throughout North and South America as well as the Caribbean in the mid 1800s, made this daguerreotype in 1855. We have found a number of advertisements and articles in the Royal Gazette such as “January 2, 1855-H.Whittemore has returned to Bermuda to solicit the patronage of the Public, and is fully prepared with Stock and Apparatus to take every variety of DAGURREOTYPE and PHOTOGRAPH…. specimens of work. …will be EXHIBITED FREE for a short time in his rooms above Mr. Keanes’s Drug Store.” On January 18,1855 an article stated,” Mr. Whittemore is now engaged upon a series of PHOTOGRAPHIC VEIWS of BERMUDA for Subscribers…His Excellency the Governor, the Chief Justice, Officers of the Army and Navy and many inhabitants have already subscribed…”
We also have a copy of Harper’s Daily, March 21,1857 titled “Guide to the Somers Islands” which printed a lithograph of St Georges taken from our daguerreotype. This was common practice in the early years of photography and enabled images of far-flung places to be available to the public.
In 1839, photography was invented –one of the single greatest developments of mankind. It was actually announced simultaneously by Jacques Daguerre in France and later that year by William Fox Talbot in England. In Daguerre’s case it was unpatented and because it was a positive process, no multiplies could be made so each image was an “original”. The medium flourished. Meanwhile, Henry Fox Talbot’s invention was a negative-positive process that was immediately patented and therefore slower to explode on the world. This would become the process that eventually ruled the photographic world so by the 1870’s Daguerre’s invention was doomed. The negative-positive process was used right up to the digital age.
This find by Masterworks is a view of St. Georges and is one of the earliest known photographs of Bermuda , given the process was only invented sixteen years earlier. This is a “must-see”-history has been made!
A generous donor, Frederick Pillsbury, gifted this beautifully crafted inlay wood panel to Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art. The inlay is classic art deco from the early nineteen thirties. It was originally fixed to the bulkhead of the D Deck Foyer on the Queen of Bermuda at its launch in 1933. Below this panel, numerous tourists in their best dress would enjoy cocktails prior to entering the grand dining room. The Queen served the Bermuda to New York run and some of those who might be found photographed in front of the panel were Babe Ruth, Shirley Temple and members of the Astor and Vanderbilt families. The boat was grace itself and this panel illustrates so well a time of elegance. The inlay remained on board until the ship was scrapped in 1967.
We would like to thank our generous donors for this amazing new acquisition. This oil painting by George Biddle, “My Mother (In a Garden, Bermuda), 1885–1973 was gifted to us for the 25th Anniversary. Biddle spent the summer of 1919 in Bermuda with his family after serving in France during World War I. It was in Bermuda that he resumed his passion for painting which he pursued in Paris at Academie Julian and later at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
The recent acquisitions Collection continues to grow in a timely manner; we were successful at auction. This is the only known Bermuda Ebert work, so we are thrilled to be able to add it to our collection. Charles Ebert was an American artist who was Life magazine’s chief political cartoonist and he and his wife moved to Old Lyme, Connecticut in 1919. Like so many of his Old Lyme contemporaries, he would spend winters sojourns in warmer climates, of which Bermuda was one. The painting is on its way to Bermuda and will be on display in the Member’s Lounge in the near future.