BY ENDURANCE WE CONQUER : Art inspired by the 1914-17 voyage of the SS Endurance.
In 2014, I left the world of academia to pursue the uncharted waters of being a full time artist. Shortly after leaving my job as a professor, I found a story that would help me to navigate this strange new territory: The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, famously known as the Endurance Expedition, the heroic journey of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his mighty crew. Initially attracted to the story by the beautiful imagery of the ship’s photographer, Frank Hurley, I found myself going beyond the photos and diving into the depths of the incredible heroism of the story. Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew set out to do what no one had done before, to sail the SS Endurance to Antarctica and then travel across the continent on foot.
The Endurance sailed through a thousand miles of pack ice for six weeks. Tragically, within only a day’s sail from their destination, the Endurance met the end of her journey. The ship was beset in the ice for ten months, eventually giving way to the ice’s pressure and meeting a watery grave. Yet for Shackleton and his crew, this was only the beginning of their harrowing tale. Their journey stretched out for another ten months where they endured living on ice floes, sailing some of the most treacherous waters on Earth in small life boats (the roaring 40s and screaming 50s), surviving on meager rations and Antarctic wildlife, trekking across razor sharp glacial mountains, all before finally securing the rescue back home.
The SS Endurance Voyage is one of the most astonishing tales of survival in all of history. As Time Magazine put it, the expedition ‘defined heroism’. Shackleton and his men overcame unbelievable obstacles. 100 years later, finding the story by accident, I realized that it was divine timing for my own artistic career. In making art about Shackleton’s voyage, I have discovered the importance of endurance when it comes to succeeding as a professional artist. Making the work has been a visual expression for me of the greater depths of what endurance truly means: patient perseverance, self-discipline, and the important fuel of hope. In the words of Shackleton’s family motto, Fortitudine vincimus, ‘By Endurance We Conquer’. As a celebration of the 100 year anniversary of the crew’s rescue, it is my hope that these paintings will inspire you to conquer your fears, transcend your obstacles and never give up on your dreams.
Bromwell's interior designer Brent Hodge talks about the contemporary relevance of Alison Shepard's work on Ernest Shackleton and the SS Endurance. Music by entheos.
Promo video for By Endurance We Conquer: Discover a Cool Summer, the marriage of art and design at Bromwell's