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Featured Online Exhibits

February, 1999

Watson and the Shark, by John Singleton Copley
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
This is one of the few exhibits on the Internet to take a single painting as its focus, and the result is astoundingly good. It amounts to about 50(!) web pages of material on this early American masterpiece.
The exhibit is broken down into four sections, in which you can read the story of Brook Watson's shark attack, learn about Copley's life and career, see some of the compositional elements of the painting illustrated, and learn about the sources which Copley drew upon in constructing the scene.
It's full of fascinating facts and observations - for example, I might never have noticed that the painting is cropped in such a way as to foreshadow the loss of Watson's foot. There is also a great reproduction of the painting, along with detail images and even an infrared photograph.
And, in this worldly day and age, it's sobering to learn that at the time he painted this scene Copley probably had never even seen a shark, alive or dead.
Click on the heading to visit the exhibit.
Or visit the Artcyclopedia entry for John Singleton Copley to see a list of web sites where his work can be seen.