Canadian Mosaic: HMS Terror

Beaverbrook Art GalleryMay 3, 20170 Comments

Canadian Mosaic: HMS Terror


Parks Canada recently announced the continued exploration of the shipwreck HMS Terror in Canada’s north, which was discovered in 2016. The story of this ill-fated ship is one that Terry Graff discussed in a Daily Gleaner commentary in connection with a painting in the Gallery’s collection. Read more about this historical event below – and come in to see it as part of the Canadian Mosaic exhibition on display now.


(The following is an edited excerpt from Graff’s Daily Gleaner commentary)

This particular painting belonging to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery -- The Crew of HMS ‘Terror’ Saving the Boats and Provisions on the Night of 15th March (1837), 1838, by George Hyde Chambers (1803-1840) – depicts the long-lost ship of Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin. In 1845, Franklin and his crew set sail on HMS Terror with provisions to last three years in order to chart the Northwest Passage. The event became a touchstone of Canadian history and a political symbol of Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic, and made headlines again this past September, when it was found 168 years later in the northern Canadian territory of Nunavut.

The painting was commissioned by Captain George Back, who besides being a British naval officer and explorer of the Canadian Arctic, was a naturalist and artist. Chambers based his painting on a description from the logbook of the Terror by Sir George Back, published in 1838. He was also familiar with the painting Perilous Position of HMS Terror, Captain Back, in the Arctic Regions in the Summer of 1837 (collection of the National Maritime Museum in London, England), which was painted by Lieutenant William Smyth, who had served under Back on the Terror voyage.

George Chambers was an English marine painter who went on to have several exhibitions, including at Tate Britain, the National Galleries of Scotland, and the Royal Academy of Marine Pictures, and to become arguably the most important marine painter of the nineteenth century.

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