Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Return of the Mayflower, by Bernard Gribble


We have several paintings in HRNM’s gallery, but one in particular stands out as we approach the 100th anniversary of the United States’ involvement in World War I. The Return of the Mayflower, by Bernard F. Gribble, illustrates Norfolk-based Destroyer Squadron 8 heading into Queenstown, Ireland, in May of 1917—only a month after the United States declared war on Germany. These U.S. destroyers were the first American ships to arrive in Europe. Britain suffered immense shipping losses due to German U-boat attacks, and this convoy helped turn the tide on the battle against underwater warfare. Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt commissioned the painting in 1919. In 1933, when Roosevelt became President of the United States, the painting hung in the oval office. Our museum proudly displays a copy of the original piece (the original can be viewed at the U.S. Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis, Maryland).

Bernard Gribble, a master in oils and watercolors, used darker tones to create a dramatic feeling while filling the canvas with a setting full of crashing waves and eerie clouds. He strategically placed a local British fisherman’s boat on the left side, full of darker shadows, expressing Britain’s despair and turmoil over the war. The fisherman’s boat fills the left side of the canvas, leading the viewer’s eye toward the center, where a United States destroyer steams straight ahead. This particular destroyer is USS Porter (DD 59), which was one of the six destroyers that was part of the mission; the rest include USS Wadsworth (DD 60), USS Conyngham (DD 58), USS McDougal (DD 54), and USS Wainwright (DD 62). The American destroyers are highlighted by sunlight peering through the parting clouds, emphasizing these ships as signs of hope. This dramatic painting not only displays the artist’s knowledge and skill in oil work, but also shows the power and hope the United States Navy provided worldwide.

(This blog post was written by HRNM Educator Diana Gordon.)


Ernie Nucup said...

Why was this painting named "The Return of the Mayflower?"

Laura Orr said...

Hi Ernie, supposedly, President Roosevelt asked Gribble to name this painting as such. We don't know for sure, but that's how the story goes!

Unknown said...

The name was based on idea that the Colonist were returning to fight for England during their time of need.

Unknown said...

Hi l have an original painting by B F Gribble with a warship sailing by the same fishing boat, it looks to be the Mayflower? but i'm unsure could anyone help please.
I live in Parkstone Dorset UK the same town Gribble lived in and bought the painting at a local auction.
I can email photos.
Best regards Bill Whiteley

Unknown said...

This painting is not located in the USNA Museum. It is in an administrative building next door that is not open to the public. We just made the trip specifically to see this painting after hearing about it in Erik Larson's book, Dead Wake. It may have been in the museum at one time, but not now. They have a similar painting, much smaller in a frame titled "Hail Columbia". Actually, I thought they looked the same. The smaller fishing boat isn't the returning Mayflower, it's the three US Destroyers. According to this website, it was commissioned by then Navy Secretary FDR and hung in the oval office during his presidency. I just wonder if it was hung there before or after Dec 7,1941.

Unknown said...

My grandfather, Joseph K. Taussig, was commander of the fleet.

Cal Sutliff said...

The original painting was offered at auction by either Sotheby’s or Christie’s, maybe ten years ago. The estimated price was $10,000. It was included in an auction of Memorablia from a Roosevelt Estate.

I wrote-in a bid for $14,000, but, it was removed from the auction and never came up. An excellent painting with memorable sentiment. I was also attracted to it by the hull number on the lead destroyer: 60, my class at the US Naval Academy. Always wondered what happened to it.

Cal Sutliff