Sea Life in the North Atlantic
Watercolour; signed, dated June 15th 1873, and inscribed 'Animals as seen in/Lat 32 N - Long 45.W'
19 x 12¼ inches
The artist, thence by descent
Roper and his family returned to England from Australia in 1873 on the Thomas Stephens. Becalmed in the North Atlantic ‘horse latitudes’ of the Sargasso Sea (a large clockwise gyre of particularly clear, blue and salty ocean waters), Roper left the ship in a rowing boat, against a backdrop of ‘fairweather’ waterspouts beneath static low cloud. There, he recorded a large piece of sargassum seaweed and the sea life around it in watercolour. On the back he wrote: ‘Animals taken on Board “Thos Stephens” / on passage from Australia, June 1873’ and gave the exact position of the ship: ‘32 N Lat 45 W Long’, and provided a key with the known names of the animals:
‘1. Physalia, or Portuguese Man of War / 2. Velella or Salle Mar / 3. Glaucus or Sea Lizard / 4. Great Pipe Fish / 5. Painted or Floating crab / 6. Cestus Veneris, or Venus’ Girdle (?) / 7. Varieties of Medusa / 8. Nearer view of portions of no. 6 / 9. Janthina Fragilis or Violet Snail & Raft / The other fish are unknown as to names.’
After this voyage, Roper studied in Paris and made a successful career as a professional artist and writer, publishing books of his travels in Canada (which he revisited many times) and working for Boys Own Paper and London Illustrated News up until his death in 1909.