The People of Gibraltar
1862 - Jacob Hägg - A Soft Spot for the Vanadis

Jacob Hägg

Jacob - or Jacques as he was also known - was born in Gotland in 1839 but spent much of his life in Stockholm. He trained at the Swedish Academy of Law and became a naval officer by which time he had already started his parallel professional career as one of Sweden’s best known marine artists.  

As a second-lieutenant in the Swedish navy he sailed on the HSwMS Josephine one of the first of Sweden’s steam-assisted corvettes. He may have been on it when the ship was sent to take soundings in the North Atlantic in 1869 and discovered the “Josephine Bank” north-west of the Straits of Gibraltar. 
He was also part of the crew on another corvette - the Gefle - and on the Vanadis, a steam-assisted frigate that was commissioned by Sweden and Norway from 1883 to 1885 to circumnavigate the world.  Jacob Hägg must have had a soft spot for the Vanadis as he painted her quite a few times - including the three that I have been able to trace showing the ship in the Gibraltar waters. The first two were probably done in 1862, 

The Vanadis sailing through the Straits of Gibraltar with the Rock in the distance   ( c1860s -  Jacob Hägg )

Watercolour of the Vanadis in Gibraltar waters    ( c1860s -  Jacob Hägg )

The Vanadis off Gibraltar     ( c1893 -  Jacob Hägg )

The date of this third painting hints that Jacob may have been on board when the ship was sailing around the world. At any rate his sketch of the Signal Station on the Upper Rock - also dated 1893 - more or less confirms that he actually visited the place around this time. 

Signal Station - Gibraltar     ( c1893 -  Jacob Hägg )

Another set of small sketches of the Rock viewed from the south and dated 1891 suggest that he may have passed through the Straits several times during his naval career.

The Rock viewed from the south      (1891 - Jacob Hägg )

Later he took on several other jobs with or associated with the Swedish navy. He was nominated admiral in 1899. In 1904 - by which time he was 65 years old - he finally retired from the service. He nevertheless continued to paint producing some of his best work during the early 20th century. One of these was his magnificent painting of SV Freya, 

Full-rigged off Gibraltar   ( 1907 - Jacob Hägg )



The Freya’s visit to Gibraltar in 1891 is associated with a tragic event. The ship was anchored in Gibraltar harbour on the 17th of March when the SS Utopia - a transatlantic passenger steamship - collided with the British battleship HMS Anson. The Utopia sank just off Ragged Staff, (see LINK) and in front of the Line Wall in less than a few minutes in the midst a violent storm. (See LINK) Well over 500 emigrants and numerous member of the crew lost their lives. Two Swedish sailors from the Freya - Bjorklander and Werner - threw themselves into the water and rescued several people from drowning. 

Engraving based on a sketch made by Georg Bergman, an officer on the Freya who was in command on one of the rescue boats   (Herman Feychting )

Jacob Hägg painted his last picture when he was 90 years old. He died in Stockholm in 1931.