During William Bradford's most ambitious trip to the Arctic in 1869, the artist wrote: "The icebergs were innumerable, of every possible form and shape, and ever changing. As the sun in his circuit fell upon different parts of the same berg, it developed continually new phases. On one side would be a towering mass in shadow, on the other a majestic berg glistened in sunlight; so that without leaving the vessel's deck I could study every variety of light and shade." (as quoted in William Bradford: Artist of the Arctic, New Bedford, Massachusetts, 1969, p. 20)
In Fishing Off the Coast of Labrador, the artist depicts several courageous ships and boats filled with men adventuring in the arctic water enveloped in the pink glow of the setting sun. The work exemplifies Bradford's mastery of detail and light. The artist has carefully rendered every aspect of the scene. The lines, the masts and the hulls of the boats are painted with precision, as are the fishermen aboard them. Bradford has captured the men in a moment of action while taking care to portray each figure's clothing. Bradford's works are also known for their luminosity, particularly seen in his Arctic paintings. In Fishing Off the Coast of Labrador, the disappearing light changes the sky from blue to pink and reflects off the water in a brilliant orange while the shadows cast from the icebergs darken to a rich green hue. As the sun sets, there is a feeling of a long day ending--the resplendent sun is about to disappear behind the horizon as it bathes the tranquil bay and the fishermen who are pulling up their last lines in its glow. The artist has also wonderfully painted the icebergs with vigorous brushwork resulting in thick impasto, giving the work depth and texture as he builds up the ice and snow. Through his deft handling of brushwork and detail, in Fishing Off the Coast of Labrador, Bradford conveys a feeling of accomplishment as these valiant men explore the Arctic seascape.