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The keeper’s Christmas dinner

Monday 16 December 2013

I have sent out my email Christmas card for 2013, the third in a series illustrated with a wood engraving. Again, it’s a sentimental subject involving Christmas, a rowing boat, a lighthouse, and a lighthouse keeper.

This one is from the American magazine Harper’s Weekly, but the tone of the picture is similar to ones from the Illustrated London News I used in 2012 and 2011.

The picture was drawn by the Scottish-American artist Milton James Burns. Burns was a seaman before he became a pro­fes­sion­al painter and illustrator. His work reveals an ob­ser­vant eye for maritime subjects, such as the scene in our en­graving. All the details of the picture look right​—​a breaking sea tossing the open boat with its lug-sail furled, the crew­men in oilskins working at their oars, the delicate operation of hoisting the bas­kets of goodies up to the lighthouse balcony​—​ex­cept for the lighthouse keeper meeting the boat in a boat­swain’s chair. That looks wrong to me​—​a gratuitious risk that a real light­keeper would avoid.

I guess that the lighthouse in the scene is meant to be the one on Minot’s Ledge near Boston harbour​—​one of the few American off­shore towers built of stone.

M J Burns (1853-1933), ‘The keeper’s Christmas dinner’, wood engraving published in the 5 December 1891 issue of Harper’s Weekly.

filed under Lighthouses + Prints

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