Advertisements

Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Portrait of Captain James Cook by John Webber (Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa)

John Webber - Portrait of Captain James Cook

Portrait of Captain James Cook

Captain James Cook (1728 – 1779) was a British explorer, cartographer, and captain in the Royal Navy. Cook made three voyages to the Pacific Ocean, during which he was the first European to chart the eastern coastline of Australia, the Hawaiian Islands and to circumnavigate of New Zealand. Cook’s voyages provided Europeans with their first glimpse of the native peoples, culture, wildlife and geography of many newly discovered lands such as Tahiti, Alaska, Hawaii, New Zealand and Australia.

Cook joined the Royal Navy in 1755 and came to public attention when he was commissioned in 1766 as commander of HM Bark Endeavour for the first of three Pacific voyages. During these voyages, Cook sailed thousands of miles across largely uncharted seas. He mapped numerous lands across the Pacific Ocean in historic detail and scale. He surveyed and named features, and recorded islands and coastlines on European maps that for the first time shed light on the blank parts our global atlas. Cook took possession of the entire east coast of Australia, which he named New South Wales, in the name of His Majesty, King George the Third.

Cook was attacked and killed in Hawaii during his third voyage in the Pacific in 1779. He left a legacy of geographical and scientific knowledge which influenced the world, and numerous memorials worldwide have been dedicated to him, reminding us of his legacy.

This portrait is one of three surviving portraits of Cook by John Webber RA (1752-1793). Webber was an English artist who accompanied Captain Cook on his third Pacific expedition. He is best known for his images of New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii and Alaska. The illustrations Webber made were included in the official record of the voyage and boosted its commercial success. In London, Webber was often visited by people keen to hear tales of the tragic death of Cook and to see his drawings and curiosities.

In his posthumous portrait of Cook, Webber depicted Cook in the glove he customarily wore to conceal the scars from an injury he sustained in North America in 1764, when a horn of powder he was holding exploded.

John Webber

Webber was born in London and served as official artist on James Cook’s third voyage of discovery around the Pacific (1776–80) aboard HMS Resolution. He is best known for his images of Australasia, Hawaii and Alaska. Returning to England, Webber exhibited around 50 works at various Royal Academy exhibitions and was elected to the Royal Academy. Most of his works were landscapes, and his painting of “The Death of Captain Cook” became well known through many engraving copies.

Facts about Captain James Cook

  • James Cook was born in 1728 in Marton, England and his father was a farmer.
  • At the age of 18, Cook took an apprenticeship as a merchant seaman.
  • During the American Revolution, as Cook was exploring North America, Benjamin Franklin ordered the captains of America’s warships not attack Cook’s ships.
  • Cook famous ship the Endeavour, was typically used for carrying coal. It wasn’t fast, but it was durable and could take more supplies than the faster ships.
  • Captain Cook introduced innovative rules to keep his crew healthy. He required his men to bathe every day, the ship to be kept clean, and the bedding to be aired twice a week.
  • Cook also introduces more fresh fruits such as oranges to keep his men from scurvy and to stay more healthy throughout the long voyages.
  • Isaac Smith was the first European to set foot in eastern Australia and he was Cook’s cousin.
  • Isaac Smith travelled with Cook on two voyages of exploration in the South Pacific and was the first to prepare survey maps of various Pacific islands and coastlines including Tierra del Fuego in South America.
  • With Cook as a model Isaac Smith (1752–1831) later became a Rear Admiral in the Royal Navy.
  • The Endeavour also had a number of English scientists aboard including the famous botanist Joseph Banks. They collected and recorded numerous plants and animals throughout their journey.
  • Tahiti was so attractive to Cook’s crew and the natives so friendly that some of Cook’s crew wanted to stay in Tahiti.
  • The Maori warriors in New Zealand wore tattoos on their faces. Some of the Endeavour’s sailors also received tattoos from the Maori on their arms. It then started a tradition with Sailors adopting tattoos, that today has spread across the world to many non-sailors.
  • Natives killed Cook at the Hawaiian Islands in 1779

Reflections

  • One of the most impressive explorers in the last 300 years?

Explore

Portrait of Captain James Cook

  • Title:               Portrait of Captain James Cook
  • Artist:             John Webber
  • Year:               1780
  • Medium:        oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:  Height: 1,095 mm (43.11 in). Width: 695 mm (27.36 in).
  • Museum:       Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

John Webber

Captain James Cook Quotes

~~~

“The man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.”

~~~

“Remember, the greater the opportunity, the fewer are those who see it.”

~~~

“A thinker reverses roles and sees the perspectives of others.”

~~~

“Ambition leads me not only farther than any other man has been before me but as far as I think it possible for a man to go.”

~~~

“Young atheists abound, but old atheists are rare.”

~~~

“Seeds sewn in adversity bear the greatest fruit.”

~~~

“The decline and fall of a civilization is barely noticed by most of its citizens.’

~~~

“To enslave a people, give them money they didn’t earn.”

~~~

“Do just once what others say you can’t do, and you will never pay attention to their limitations again.”

~~~

“Whatever you do without confidence will be done badly.”

~~~

Explore New Zealand’s Museums

~~~

“Remember, the greater the opportunity, the fewer are those who see it.”
– James Cook

~~~


Photo Credits: 1)John Webber [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 2) John Webber [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Advertisements