(This post submitted by the Curator of Art at New Bedford Free Public Library, Janice Hodson.)
On April 26, 2013, the same day as the NBWM opens Arctic Visions: ‘Away then Floats the Ice-Island’, the NBFPL will open The Frigid Zone: William Bradford’s Arctic Studies in the City Gallery at the New Bedford Art Museum. This exhibit will run through September 29, 2013.
William Bradford’s sumptuous volume The Arctic Regions highlights the artist’s fascination with the uncharted polar north that had captured the Victorian imagination. The New Bedford Free Public Library acquired its copy in August 1873. Although the library’s acquisition committee favored purchasing the book, its steep $125 price tag caused the matter to be referred to the Board of Trustees. Library trustee James Bunker Congdon served as salesman, promoting the “magnificent and costly work” to his fellow board members:
The work is one that commends itself to the lovers of art as well as the students of science.… It has for us a local interest. The gifted and adventurous author was once a resident of our city; and here he made his first attempts in that department of art in which he has won a deservedly high position…. We have now upon our walls a beautiful chromo of his celebrated picture ‘Sealer among the Icebergs’; and there would seem to be a propriety in having in our possession this splendid work which has, in so graphic a manner, made us familiar with the wonderful scenery of the Northern Regions.
Congdon’s praise successfully persuaded the rest of the board members, though some haggling over the price must have taken place, since the library ended up paying the reduced sum of $110.
Eventually the library’s Bradford holdings grew to include 25 loose drawings and studies; a 46 page sketchbook; a number of photographs taken during the artist’s Arctic travels; and three oil paintings. A sampling of this material will be on view in the library’s City Gallery at the New Bedford Art Museum from April 26 through September 29, 2013.