THOU SHALT KNOT: CLIFFORD W. ASHLEY
NEW BEDFORD WHALING MUSEUM
18 JOHNNY CAKE HILL
NEW BEDFORD, MASSACHUSETTS
THROUGH JUNE 2018
by Don Wilkinson
In the 19th century, during a time of unprecedented opportunity and prosperity created by whaling and related endeavors — such as whale oil refinement — the City of New Bedford flourished. At one time, it was among the richest cities in the world.
And with the wealth that the Yankee gentry had acquired, something else grew: a desire for the finer things in life, including architectural masterpieces of Victorian architecture, superbly crafted furniture, musical instruments and fine art. The 1800s saw the cultural ascension of a number of significant painters born in New Bedford and the surrounding towns of Acushnet and Fairhaven, including Albert Pinkham Ryder, William Bradford, Clement Nye Smith and Albert Bierstadt (born in Germany and relocated to New Bedford at the age of two).
Born in 1881, Clifford Warren Ashley was the youngest of the notable New Bedford painters of the era. He attended the Eric Pape Art School in Boston, and during the summer of 1901, he studied under the American Impressionist George Loftus Noyes in Annisquam, Massachusetts, along with his friend, N.C. Wyeth.
In the fall, he continued his education under the aegis of the preeminent illustrator Howard Pyle at his school in Wilmington, Delaware, which would later be known as the Brandywine School. With Pyle helping him secure commissions, Ashley became a successful illustrator, creating fanciful imagery for magazines such as Leslie’s, McClure’s and Harper’s Monthly, for which he also wrote a lengthy two-part article on whaling.