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World War Ii

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Painters & Paintings

While Joseph Banks used classical similes to describe Tahiti in his journal, none of the draughtsmen in his service--Buchan, Parkinson and Spцring--were trained to draw figures in the 'correct' proportions of classical sculpture. As a result, their drawings of the people and scenes Banks describes are at odds with the journal.

When John Hawkesworth engaged artists to design and engrave the illustrations for his account of Cook's voyage, he chose Giovanni Battista Cipriani and Francesco Bartolozzi. Cipriani and his friend Bartolozzi, both originally from Florence, came to England in 1755 and became founding members of the Royal Academy when it was established in 1768. Inheritors of a long-standing academic tradition that made few concessions to the need for scientifically accurate records of expeditions, Cipriani's Rococo Classicism was used to 'improve' the drawings of Parkinson et al in much the same way that Hawkesworth 'improved' Cook's journal.

Francesco Bartolozzi (1727-1815)

after Giovanni Battista Cipriani (1727-1785)

after Sydney Parkinson (1745?-1771)

[A View of the Inside of a House in the Island of Ulietea, with the Representation of a Dance to the Music of the Country]

London: 1773

engraving; plate mark 21.2 x 30.1 cm

Pictorial Collection S1691

Drawing strongly on the conventions of Istoria or history painting, Mortimer celebrates the achievements of Cook's first Pacific voyage. Cook, at the centre of the composition, gestures towards the new discoveries he has made across the seas. On the left of the painting sits Joseph Banks, with Daniel Solander standing behind him. The figure at the right of the composition is John Montagu, fourth Earl of Sandwich and First Lord of the Admiralty, under whose orders Cook had sailed.

Banks sits upon a grassy bank, a reference to both his name and his passion for botany and natural history. The Earl leans upon a symbol of the classical past--regarded as the origin and cornerstone of British culture--which serves to emphasise his authority and position in society, while Cook indicates the glorious future made possible by British scientific advancement.

John Hamilton Mortimer (1741-1779)

[Captain James Cook, Sir Joseph Banks, Lord Sandwich, and Two Others] 1771?

oil on canvas; 120 x 166 cm

Pictorial Collection R10630

When Joseph Banks abandoned his plan to accompany James Cook on his second voyage to the Pacific, the artists he intended to take with him--the well-known German artist Johann Zoffany and three topographical artists (James Miller, John Frederick Miller and John Cleveley)--were also withdrawn from the voyage. In their place, the Admiralty board appointed William Hodges, landscape painter.

Unlike the artists of the first voyage, Hodges was to be directly under Cook's orders. Early in the voyage Hodges was occupied with coastal profiles and tutoring a number of the midshipmen in topographic drawing. As the voyage progressed he showed a growing interest in recording atmospheric phenomena. Painting through the windows of the great cabin on the Resolution, Hodges was practising a form of 'plein airism' that would not become fashionable until the nineteenth century, when it would herald a transformation in western art.

The tropical character of Tahiti and the Society Islands generally presented Hodges with an entirely new set of visual problems, and his response was to concentrate on the portrayal of atmosphere, light and colour, subordinating detail to general effect. Despite the spontaneity and immediacy of effect Hodges achieves in so many of his paintings, a number of them were executed back in England, presumably from sketches taken on the spot. This painting appears to be one of those sketches, as another version of the work was presented to the Admiralty by Hodges in 1776 in fulfilment of his commission. It is now held by the National Maritime Museum in Britain.

William Hodges (1744-1797)

View from Point Venus, Island of Otaheite c.1774

oil on canvas; 29.2 x 39.4 cm

Pictorial Collection R8849

William Hodges (1744-1797)

A Man of Tahiti with Long Hair August 1773?

chalk drawing; 54.7 x 37.5 cm

Pictorial Collection R756

Of the wonderful series of portraits of Tahitians produced by Hodges, this portrait of Tu--or Otoo as the British called him--is regarded as the best. Tu was the leading chieftain of the Pare region of Tahiti, which lay adjacent to Matavai Bay. His reputation as a 'timorous prince' had been earned during the visit of the Endeavour in 1769, when he had refused to meet with Cook. However, with the assistance of a succession of British ships, and via his own considerable ambition, he later succeeded in uniting the whole of the Society Islands under his own rule as Pomare I. The Pomare dynasty lasted for 70 years before the French annexed the Islands group, and was even able to maintain its social and ritual roles for another 40 years after that.

William Hodges (1744-1797)

Otoo, King of Otaheite [i.e. Tahiti] August? 1773

chalk drawing; 54 x 37.8 cm

Pictorial Collection R755

In this portrait Hodges has used details of the costume and ornaments of his sitter--not as items typical of a certain society, but rather as indicators of the particular rank and role in society of an individual. In his published account of his voyage in the Pacific, George Forster writes:

'In the morning we were to the south of Cape Kidnappers, and advanced to the Black Cape. After breakfast three canoes set off from this part of the shore, where some level land appeared at the foot of the mountains. They soon came on board as we were not very far from the land, and in one of them was a chief, who came on deck without hesitation.

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