Polynesian objects from early European exploration, £19.99
William Hodges, View of Island of Otaheite (Tahiti), a watercolour
Tahiti, AD 1773
This large brush drawing in grey wash and
'A View in the Island of Otaheite from the Land looking towards the Reef & Sea, and which has much the appearance of the Low coral Reef Islands, the Plants a[re] Coco Nut Tree. & Plantain which are indigenous Drawn from Nature by W Hodges in Year 1773'.
This is Tahiti as it was first discovered by European explorers. On 18 August 1773, Captain Cook anchored his two ships, the Resolution and Adventure, in Vaitepiha Bay, Tahiti. Unlike other artists on the voyage, who were chiefly employed to make accurate observations, Hodges (1744-97) viewed these newly discovered lands through distinctly European eyes. He was more interested in capturing the atmosphere through light and colour. The palm tree at the front left frames the view, provides a framing device for the composition as employed in the classical landscapes of Claude Lorrain. The curved silhouettes of the tall palm trees and canoes' sails set against the horizon, suggest the landscapes of his teacher, the British artist Richard Wilson (1714-82). The mood is quiet and still, the scene bathed in strong, tropical light.
Hodges accompanied Captain Cook on his second voyage to the South Seas from 1772-75. He mainly drew landscapes, but also some animals, birds and the peoples of the Pacific islands visited by the European explorers. Many of his views were later worked up into oil paintings or reproduced as engravings in published accounts of Cook's voyages and discoveries.
L. Stainton, Nature into art: English lands (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)
M. Jacobs, The painted voyage: art, trave (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)