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D'Vys, George
Arctic Scene by a Crew Member of the U.S.S. “Release” from the expedition to Rescue Dr. Elisha Kent Kane, 1855

[N.P. Arctic, 1855] oil on gesso covered panel, actually a small wooden plate or shallow bowl, 8 1/4 inches in diameter. The image depicts icebergs in the background, two ships being pulled by their crew members through an ice-field in the middle ground, a polar bear looks on from the foreground. The painting is inscribed in ink on the verso to his wife. The overall condition is good, there is some chipping with loss to the gesso ground along edges, some light rubbing and cracking, else good.

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Folk painting by seaman George D’Vys celebrating the successful search for Dr. Kane’s party in the Arctic Ocean and along the coast of Greenland. The painting which was presumably accomplished on some shipboard object, was a presentation to the artist’s wife: “To My Wife The ‘Main Stay’ of my life Through Storms and Strife I give this little re-membrancer U.S. Aartic [sic] Expedition May 1855 In Search of Dr. Kane.” The artist signs below with his name and the name of his wife, Elizabeth Lucinda D’Vys. Beneath the dates 1857 and 1898 have been added later.

That George D’Vys was a member of the search expedition’s crew is an established fact, as his name appears in a crew list of the U.S. bark Release, one of the two search vessels. The list is contained in officer Charles Lever’s diary of the expedition, (now housed at the Rauner Special Collections Library of Dartmouth College) Lever was Captain’s Clerk aboard the Release.

The story of Dr. Kane’s ill-fated second Franklin expedition is well-known. After sailing from New York at the end of May 1853, Kane made rapid progress north to the polar sea, but his ship, the Advance, became stuck in the ice. When it became clear the ship was lost, Kane and his crew packed sledges and boats with provisions and instruments, the party then dragged the load over more than 300 miles of ice to open water. The party then rowed and sailed 1300 miles to the Danish outpost of Upernavik, in Greenland, where they were kindly received. The rescue mission, led by US Navy Lieutenant Henry Hartstene, left New York in late April 1855 and in September met up with Kane and his crew at Disko Island, 250 miles south of Upernavik. The party then returned to New York amid great fanfare.