Open Content Program
The Birmingham Museum of art makes available digital images of works in the Museum’s collection believed to be in the public domain. Images are available free of charge for any use, commercial or non-commercial. Users do not need to contact the Museum for authorization to use these images. They are available through the Online Collection at artsbma.org/collection. See detailed instructions for specific work types below.
Identifying Open Content Images
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Open Content Program
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The Birmingham Museum of Art
2000 Rev. Abraham Woods Jr. Blvd
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- Titles A Tragedy of the Sea (Former title)
- Artist George Inness, American, 1825 - 1894
- Medium oil on canvas
- Dimensions 30 × 45 1/8 in. (76.2 × 114.6 cm) frame: 39 3/4 × 54 3/4 × 3 1/2 in. (101 × 139.1 × 8.9 cm)
- Credit Line Gift of Mrs. Elesabeth Ingalls Gillet, 1975.94
- Work Type painting
- Classification Paintings
- On View
- Inscription Verso, top stretcher bar, center, black crayon: S143G / 4708A [4708A crossed out] Verso, top stretcher bar, upper right, black marker: BMA / 75.94 Frame, recto, bottom center, black paint on plate: Tragedy at Sea / George Inness, N.A. / 1825-1894 Frame, verso, left rail, bottom left, black marker on red sticker: 11-30-83
- Provenance Possibly Williams & Everett, Boston, around 1872-1873 and 1884 [see note 1]; Robert Crannell Minor (1839-1904), Waterford, Connecticut and New York, 1889; Williams & Everett, Boston; purchased by Edwin Barry Willcox (died 1917), New York [see note 2]; his estate, represented by his sister, Katharine A. Willcox; purchased by Alexander Gaw, New York, November 1917, [see note 3]; purchased by dealer J. W. Young Gallery, Chicago, December 1917; purchased by Joseph G. Butler, Jr., Youngstown, Ohio, January 26, 1918 [see note 4]; gift to the Butler Institute of Art, Youngstown, Ohio, 1919, deaccessioned; by exchange to J. J. Gillespie Company, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for Inness' "Misty Morning Montclair", January 1929; purchased by Ellen Gregg Ingalls (1887-1969), Birmingham, Alabama; inherited by her granddaughter, Elesabeth Ingalls Gillet (1935-2018), Birmingham, Alabama; gift to the Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama, 1975
1. Possibly in the exhibition Northwestern Fair, Chicago, Illinois, June 1865, no. 10, as "The Wreck," offered for sale by Williams & Everett, Boston. Later exhibited at the Mechanics' Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, about October 1884, no. 170, as "After the Combat--A Marine Effect," lent by Williams & Everett.
in the exhibition; 1873 Lathrop article
2. Correspondence from Katherine Willcox states that her brother, Edwin Barry Willcox, purchased “Tragedy at Sea” from Mr. Williams (Williams and Everett, Boston), so Minor returned it to them at a date not yet known. “Tragedy at Sea” was not included in Minor’s estate auction in 1905. Inness’s 1918 letter states that he saw the paining at Minor’s studio. Perhaps Minor returned the painting around the time he closed his studio in 1900, which might explain why he chose to exhibit it at the Lotos Club, New York, in 1899.
3.Gaw worked for the Lincoln Safe Deposit Company, where Edwin Barry Willcox had stored the painting on and off for twenty years.
4. Young described the sale to Butler in a letter to George Inness, Jr., dated January 25, 1918. “The picture passed into my possession at the end of December 1917. Just a few days ago I was in New York and I brought it to the Waldorf to show it to some friends. Mr. Butler was the first person to see it there and he felt that he would like to make this work the first picture that he bought for his new museum, now in the course of erection. He has made the acquisition and shared with me the belief that this fine work will do much to elevate public taste and set a high standard by which works of art generally can be measured in his community.” Butler acquired “Tragedy at Sea” under a contract: the title transferred quickly, but payment was made in installments over a year. Young reserved the right to exhibit the painting until July 1, 1918.