The painting of Ragnar’s Epitaph

Painted back in 2014, Ragnar’s Epitaph brought together a scene near my childhood home (which forever captivated me), and the best preserved example of a Viking long-ship ever unearthed.

Ragnar, the infamous Viking warrior, met his fate at the hands of the English King Ælle of Northumbria after he was shipwrecked on the English shore. He was famously thrown into a pit of vipers. Ragnar’s Epitaph is an imagining of his long-ship, wrecked and slowly rotting where it beached. 

Ragnar's Epitaph - Viking Long ship painting

The inspiration for this painting was simply a desire to do something spectacular with the creek I use to fish from as a young boy. Situated off the River Tamar in Cornwall, England, it is absolutely silent, aside from the wind moving through the trees, the sound of the tide and the eerie call of curlews. 

At the time, I didn’t know that the History Channel was making what was to become one of the world’s most popular TV series. Like many people, my fascination with the Vikings is deep rooted and in my case, stemmed from the Kirk Douglas movie of 1958. 

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Into this scene, I imagined a beached Viking long-ship, and as luck would have it, I discovered that a fully intact long-ship actually exists. The Oseberg ship (Norwegian: Osebergskipet) is a well-preserved Viking ship discovered in a large burial mound at the Oseberg farm near Tønsberg in Vestfold county, Norway. This ship is commonly acknowledged to be among the finer artifacts to have survived from the Viking Era. The ship and some of its contents are displayed at the Viking Ship Museum at Bygdøy on the western side of Oslo, Norway.

As soon as I saw this ship, I knew that painting it into this scene would lend it authenticity. It is a fact that the Vikings did indeed venture up the rivers and creeks along the Cornish coastline and there is much evidence to support this.

The painting took off!

In the 2014 international Lumen Prize, Ragnar’s Epitaph was placed in the worldwide top 100 for digital art (the Lumen Prize is the world’s pre-eminent digital art prize according to ‘The Guardian’).

From November 2014 until February 2015, it was on display in the lobby gallery of the Financial Conduct Authority in Canary Wharf, London, England.

In March 2016 it was exhibited for a month at the premier venue for the Arts, ‘The Wharf”, in Tavistock, Devon.

Vikings and the Vikings book cover

In 2019 the painting was selected for the cover of a book, Vikings and the Vikings, published by McFarland Publishing. The book is a collection of essays on the popular TV series, Vikings and is best seller with fans and scholars alike.

Since 2014, Ragnar’s Epitaph has been awarded features in eleven separate galleries on the Fine Art America website.

Today, it remains my most successful painting.

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