On hand to witness the fading glory of the American whaling trade in New Bedford, Clifford Ashley made the most of early opportunities to study with master American illustrators and artists to visually record American whaling in the early 20TH Century. He would also author important whaling-related books, illustrate major publications and become a highly proficient sailor.
Born in the prestigious whaling port town, Ashley graduated and went to study in Boston at the Eric Pape School alongside N.C. Wyeth, Sidney Chase and Henry Peck. The four artists then studied in the summer of 1901 under George Noyes, and soon Ashley was tutored in the company of Howard Pyle in Wilmington, Delaware. Ashley would establish his winter residence here, and summer nearly every year in New Bedford, along with his inherited farm in Westport, Massachusetts.
Maritime settings inspired Ashley and he in turn inspired many others with thoughts and remembrances in marine scenes through his paintings and illustrations, such as the sixty plate drawings in his 1929 Book “Whaleships of New Bedford” and the forward by no other than President Franklin D. Roosevelt, or his important tome “The Ashley Book of Knots” in 1944. Still, his original artworks rise above to be rare, illusive and sought after by maritime art collections.
The New Bedford Whaling Museum, in conjunction with the Brandywine Museum mounted a major show of the works of Clifford W. Ashley in a 1973 exhibition.