Eric Edward Esper, ‘The Last Voyage of the Lady Elgin’, 2015, Gallery Victor Armendariz

Last Voyage of the Lady Elgin
On Saturday, September 8, 1860 at 2:30 a.m., the sidewheel steamship was full of Milwaukee’s Union Guard and civilians returning to Milwaukee from political rallies in Chicago. During gale force winds and thunderstorms, the Lady Elgin was struck on the port side by the schooner Augusta. Within 20 minutes, the Lady Elgin broke apart and sank as the Augusta raced to Chicago to save itself. After a perilous night, about 350-400 passengers were drifting upon flotsam in stormy waters. After several hours, and still two miles from shore, most of the survivors lost their fight to live as they succumbed to the waves breaking on the rocky shoreline. Approximately 300 perished.
The Lady Elgin disaster resulted in the greatest loss of lives in open water in the history of the Great Lakes.

Eric Edward Esper

After obtaining my BFA in Illustration from Northern Michigan University in 1996 I relocated to Chicago to pursue my artistic endeavors. Here, I began exclusively oil painting and have assembled a body of paintings chronicling scenes of Chicago done primarily in plein air.

Capturing parts of the city’s landscape during its cultural evolution had been my way of conveying history as a painter. My fascination with landscapes and history has led me to create oil paintings of scenes that have affected us in dramatic ways. Recently I have begun painting aerial views of locations that have interesting historical significance, encapsulating true stories that are hard to imagine and harder to forget. My latest paintings capture these places and depict them with historically accurate attention to detail. Using various sources I recreate these scenes with as many photographs of every angle of the incident and research the stories, submersing myself in the event. My newest body of paintings depicts events with a more historically tragic significance, depicting scenes of the darkest hours in America’s Midwest history, where the landscape became the backdrop for tragedy and calamity. These events that irrevocably altered so many lives are important to remember, not only for the people lost and how it affected our culture, but also to remind us that disaster can occur at any time, anywhere.

About Eric Edward Esper