Next month sees an exhibition at Bonhams entitled Visions of the Great White South that will reunite the iconic photography of Herbert Ponting with the evocative watercolours of Edward Wilson from Captain Scott’s final expedition to the Antarctic.
The British Antarctic Expedition, better known by the name of its ship the Terra Nova, took place from 1910-1913. Captain Robert Falcon Scott appointed Dr Edward Wilson, a close friend and a fine watercolourist, as his chief scientist. He also invited camera artist Herbert Ponting to join the expedition as official photographer, in a bold move in an era when high quality photography required great skill and careful attention in ordinary circumstances, let alone in the extreme environment of the Antarctic. Both Wilson and Ponting captured expedition life as well as keeping a visual record of scientific phenomena that the crew were studying.
Making use of the Scott Polar Research Institute’s historical collections, the exhibition will also show examples of Captain Scott’s photography from the expedition in a series of beautiful new platinum prints of his work, produced by Belgian photographic publishers Salto Ulbeek in collaboration with the Scott Polar Research Institute. Scott was taught photography by Ponting during the expedition, and, in the images he produced, the influence of both Ponting and Wilson can be discerned in the ways he captured the vast and compelling landscapes of the Antarctic.
Both Ponting and Wilson hoped to hold a joint exhibition, however the catastrophic loss of the South Pole party including Scott and Wilson made that impossible.
Owing to the death of Dr. Wilson his pictures could never be reproduced for sale, as he had intended. His widow, therefore, considered it better that they should be exhibited separately. The whole beautiful series of his water colours was shown at the Alpine Club, whilst my photographs were exhibited at the Fine Art Society’s galleries, London
Professor Julian Dowdeswell, Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute, comments, “It is a great privilege to hold the remarkable paintings of Edward Wilson and the striking photography of Herbert Ponting in the Scott Polar Research Institute’s historic collection. By reuniting their work in this special exhibition we are pleased to give the public the opportunity to see their works together and at their best.”
Alongside the historic artworks, visitors will have the opportunity to see contemporary interpretations of the ‘great white south’. For several years the Friends of Scott Polar Research Institute, with the support of Bonhams and the Royal Navy, have run an artist in residence scheme which sends an artist to the Antarctic on board the icebreaker HMS Protector. Artists including Captain Scott’s grand-daughter Daphila Scott and renowned wildlife artist Darren Rees will exhibit their responses to the frozen wilds of Antarctica.
Robert Brooks, Chairman of Bonhams, comments, “It is an honour for Bonhams to exhibit the art of two such extraordinarily talented and brave men and to be able to hang works together publicly for the first time ever. The Terra Nova expedition is famous, of course, for the tragic loss of Captain Scott and his companions. But its purpose was primarily scientific and Wilson and Ponting’s work reminds us of the pioneering quest for knowledge that underpinned the venture.”
The chairman of the Friends of Scott Polar Research Institute, Rear Admiral Nick Lambert, comments “The Friends are extremely grateful for Bonhams’ and the Royal Navy’s ongoing support of the Artist in Residence Programme enabling five artists to experience and record Antarctica’s fabulous environment hosted by HMS Scott and HMS Protector over the past five years. The exhibition is a brilliant opportunity to display modern works alongside those of the Terra Nova expedition.” The Friends are also pleased to announce that this summer their first Arctic artist in residence will be travelling to Svalbard, with the support of One Ocean Expeditions.