Carl Hilgers (1818 - 1890) belongs to the first generation of Düsseldorf landscape painters who established the lasting fame of landscape painting at the Düsseldorf School of Painting.
The expedition of Sir John Franklin in the arctic ice shows a scene rich in figures on a burning ship in the middle of the arctic. Lifeboats are lowered into the water, the masts are missing on the main ship, which is drifting between the ice floes with a fire. Through the picture, Hilgers participates in speculating what might have happened to the Sir John Franklin Expedition. In 1848 there was no information as to where the ships were and in the following years several rescue teams were dispatched to the attention of the British public. Various speculations circulated and could not be cleared up for a long time. It was only in the last few years that the ships could be found and recovered.
Carl Hilgers was especially known for his very relaxed, unaffected painting style, which was rightly repeatedly mentioned with praise. He came to painting early. At the age of eleven he received his first lessons at the Düsseldorf Art Academy. In 1835 he studied landscape painting with Johann Wilhem Schirmer. The young painter was already considered highly talented during his student days. He went on numerous study trips to Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands, where numerous nature studies were carried out in the tradition of the umbrella school. His preferred subjects were Dutch and Lower Rhine landscape motifs. Carl Hilgers was best known for his winter motifs, in which he was based on Dutch models of the 17th century.
His paintings were acquired for numerous institutions, including the museums in Breslau, Gotha, Danzig and Schwerin. In addition to Germany, the painter is represented in private collections in England and America.