John Singleton Copley’s Watson and the Shark, 1778.
The painting is based on a real event, the shark attack of Brook Watson in Havana harbor in 1749. Brook, then a 14 year old cabin boy, survived the attack, though he did lose his right leg. American artist John Singleton Copley met Brook Watson in London soon after his arrival there in 1774 and Watson commissioned the painting to commemorate the attack. Later in life, Watson came up in the world and received a baronetcy. He requested that the coat of arms memorialize the attack. Watson’s severed foot was incorporated into the design.
Winslow Homer’s The Gulf Stream, 1899
This painting depicts a man in a small rudderless, de-masted boat, tossed about in a sea swarming with hungry sharks. Behind the struggling man looms a waterspout. When a viewer requested an explanation for the narrative, Homer fairly bristled in response:
"I regret very much that I have painted a picture that requires any description....I have crossed the Gulf Stream ten times & I should know something about it. The boat & sharks are outside matters of very little consequence. They have been blown out to sea by a hurricane. You can tell these ladies that the unfortunate negro who now is so dazed & parboiled, will be rescued & returned to his friends and home, & ever after live happily."