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Whaling painting will stay where it belongs − New London

May 21, 2019

In keeping with its name, Citizens Bank did the right thing. A couple of New London leaders deserve due credit for helping persuade them to do so. In the process, these local leaders landed their whale, symbolically speaking.

On Wednesday, Hugh Peltz, a Citizens Bank executive, will present to the New London Maritime Society a large 1929 painting depicting a historic whaling scene. The ceremony will take place at the society’s annual National Maritime Day luncheon, beginning at 12:45 at the U.S. Custom House Maritime Museum, operated by the society at 150 Bank Street. There it will become a permanent exhibit.

The painting is coming home.

The 1929 painting by Lars Thorsen had long adorned a wall of the Citizens Bank building on Eugene O’Neill Drive, perhaps dating back to the time it was the Savings Bank of New London and served as a center of city commerce, including when the whaling trade drove much of that economic activity. The bank building is the next-door neighbor of The Day offices.

But when the painting disappeared as Citizens prepared to close the bank, which it did in April and relocated services to a Howard Street office, fears grew that it might be lost to New London.

Custom House Maritime Museum director Susan Tamulevich was no more inclined than 19th century whalers to let this big catch get away without a fight. With a push from Mayor Michael Passero, who made it clear the “Whaling City” would not quietly tolerate anyone making away with this treasure, Tamulevich remained persistent. It paid off.

Thorsen, an immigrant from Norway who lived in Noank and died in New London in 1952, served on several sailing expeditions. His dramatic oil painting, 49 inches wide and 56 inches high, depicts a whaling boat being upended in pursuit of a whale, the frantic action frozen in history. Our history.

 

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