|The series of four separately issued coloured aquatint views of the Pacific: View of Owhyhee, one of the Sandwich Islands; View of Morea, or Eimo, one of the Society Islands; View of Huaheine, one of the Society Islands, showing the Resolution and Discovery at anchor in the magnificent harbour of O Wharre; View of Charlotte Sound in New Zealand [sic; actually Matavai Bay, Tahiti]. |
The complete set of four aquatints, each 440 x 600 mm., handcoloured; a fine set; complete with full captions (often lacking), mounted and framed.
Cleveley’s wonderful visions of Captain Cook’s Pacific
A full set of the four beautiful handcoloured aquatints, prepared from watercolours by John Cleveley after original drawings made by his brother James in the South Seas. Perhaps the most magnificent Pacific marine prints ever issued, they have been described as ‘the kind of prints that anyone who travelled with Cook, whether officer, midshipman or able seaman, might want to possess to remind him and his family of the days when he travelled with Cook’ (Joppien & Smith, III, p.221). Each of the four images shows Resolution and Discovery at anchor in the Society and Sandwich islands. The settings are ideals of Pacific beauty, and particularly of the moments of contact between the European crews and the islanders; whether it is a peaceful transaction being carried out alongside a beached cutter, or the colour and violence of Cleveley’s version of Cook’s death in Kealakekua Bay.
They are based on designs by James Cleveley, who was ship’s carpenter on the expedition; although not formally trained, he appears to have been a proficient artist. After the voyage returned to England in October 1780 his brother John, a professional draughtsman, took the sketches made on the voyage (“drawn on the spot”, according to the original prospectus issued for the prints), and worked them up into finished watercolours. John Cleveley was a maritime painter who followed in the tradition established by his father. He was known for his watercolours and his skill as a draughtsman, and it was this renown that led to his being appointed draughtsman to Sir Joseph Banks’ voyage to Iceland in 1772 (after Banks’ famous withdrawal from Cook’s second voyage).
These aquatints were prepared in 1787-8. In the process of preparing them for European eyes, the landscape has been tamed and the islanders portrayed in a manner both dignified and classical. The finished works portray the Pacific islands and their inhabitants in a picturesque and idealised manner, which perhaps has more to do with conforming to European notions of a Pacific Arcadia than specific representations of the islands as they were.
Rare in any state, this excellent set retains the original captions, which are often lacking.
Beaglehole, III, pp. ccxiv; Beddie, 1752-1783; Nan Kivell and Spence, p. 68.
|Item Condition:||Some very light foxing; well framed.|
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