For the family archives:
The story of the Francis S Smitheman's painting of Southern Cross ? the polar vessel of Carsten Egeberg Borchgrevink (1864-1934)
© Kunstneren - S. Francis Smitheman
The ?Southern Cross? expedition 1898-1900 under the leadership of Carsten Borchgrevink landing the leader and nine members at Cape Adare for the world?s first wintering on the continent of Antarctica. ? S. Francis Smitheman ATD.BA Hons FRSA 1988
At the request of Theodor Borchgrevink (1923- ) I have composed a small text on the background of the painting of Carsten E. Borchgrevink / Southern Cross.
Twenty years old and active in the post world war II reconciliation process; initiated from a training centre in Switzerland, I met a former young-communist, coal miner and catholic ?Francis Smitheman from England. He had artistic skills and became the stage painter of our frequent MRA reconciliation plays. We worked together over three continents and six years.
In 1979 I worked in shipping; an engineering company selling natural gaz systems to tankers. We chose a British fan supplier based in Birmingham. The factory got delivery deadline problems. I was asked to solve the matter. Who did I know in Birmingham ? Francis Smitheman. I called him. After fifteen minutes chat, 23 years vanished. He went over to the industrial part of his town and inspects the crate finally ready for shipping. He was paid by my company for his services.
During my next visit to England, my wife Liv and I went to Birmingham by train and welcomed in the home of Francis and his wife Gladys. She was textile designer, producing the most lovely creations suitable for the royal balls of the queen. Francis had become professor and dean of performing arts at Midland College. He also did some oil paining, but none of the paintings on his walls were advances enough to attract me.
Francis and Gladys chose an early retirement, they moved to the South coast and, after arranging their house with extraordinary personal efforts in most fields ? plumbing, electricity, masonry, glass, carpentry and painting ? he continued oil painting. I thought he would continue his old hobby. But this was a vocation; to create 200 oils valuable oil paintings, of which some 20 would be magnificent.
After a while I received Christmas cards of some of his works, and they turned our to be very good. Liv and I visited an exhibition he participated in. I bought three small paintings.
Later, in 1984, we invited him to our home in Kristiansand; to exhibit his best paintings for sale. We cleared our walls, Francis hang 14 of his paintings, including one of the Norwegian school vessel Christian Radich. He lectured about the art history from the Renaissance to Modern times ? a half hour lecture. 11 of his paintings were sold.
Four years later, while producing a painting about a French polar explorer, he calls me and tells me that he has discovered a Borchgrevink in the literature. Could he be a relative? I confirmed this, after having been presented to the history of one of the family heroes at the family gathering at RÝros in 1984. He was my fathers cousin. "Do you wish to have a painting of him" Francis asked. I was perplexed; would he spend time on my relative. Yes! We agreed on a price, and as the humble man he is, he said I should pay if I liked it, or else return the painting. He sent me two pencil sketches and asked me to choose between them. Later I received a slide. I consulted a sailor experienced in sailing vessels. He pointed out some details in ropes and anchor cable that needed some changes. I reported back to Francis, he changed the details and we received the paining, framed it and it hangs in my livingroom.
Today (2007) the painting is reproduced and is presented on one of the web sites of NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting).
Prices: Let me talk a bit about prices. In the 1984 exhibition in my home in Kristiansand which was his first solo exhibition, the highest price was NOK 1400.
In 2002 the Christie art auction house in London sold one of his paintings for 9100 pounds (some NOK 110.000). Royal Mint - the institution printing bank notes, memorabile and memory coins - asked him to paint an original of the Trafalgar battle for the two-hundredth anniversary in 2005. The painting was auctioned on the Internet for 21.000 pounds.
Smitheman is today one of the leading marine painters in England.
Lysaker, 8 March 2007
Christopher Hawkins Borchgrevink
(PDF)D1864-2 carsten chris smitheman-eng.pdf