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 would develop 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." (cited in J. Wilmerding, William Bradford, Artist of the Artic, New Bedford, Massachusetts, 1969, p. 20)
This excursion which followed the artist's earlier trips to Labrador and the artic seas in the late 1850s and early 1860s lasted roughly three months and covered over five thousand miles. Accompianied by a large crew from Newfoundland, a scientist-explorer, his two brothers and several friends, Bradford set sail towards Greenland on the Scotch whaling steamer the Panther. In addition to recording the incredible scenery of this vast, remote territory in numerous sketchbooks, photographs and small oil studies, Bradford was simultaneously preparing the text for The Arctic Regions, a limited edition book published in London in 1873.
The impressive display of natural phenomena of this region is revealed in the following words of Frederic Church who also explored this northern territory: "All the sea in that quarter, under the last sunlight, shone like a pavement of amethyst, over which all of the chariots of the earth might have rolled, and all its cavalry wheeled with ample room. Wonderful to behold! it was only a fair field for the steeped icebergs, a vast metropolis in ice, pearly white and red as roses, glittering in the sunset. Solemn, still and half-celestial scene! In its presence, cities, tented fields, and fleets dwindled into toys. I said aloud, but low: 'The City of God! The sea of glass! the plains of heaven.'" (J. Wilmerding, p. 23)
This painting was executed circa 1875.