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'Resolution' and 'Discovery' at Moorea

Fine art

Object connections:

Collection Fine art, Oil paintings
User collections Captain Cook's Third Voyage by NMMCollections
Gallery locationNot on display
VesselsDiscovery 1774, Resolution (1770)

Object details:

Object ID BHC1896
Description (Updated, February 2018) This painting refers to James Cook’s third voyage to the Pacific in 1776-80. In the background the island’s mountains rise into a clouded sky. The bay stretches into the picture space from the right leaving part of the foreground to the depiction of the shore. In the central middle ground Cook's ‘Resolution’ and ‘Discovery’ are at anchor, dominating the calm waters. Islanders and Europeans can be seen in boats and among the houses and palm trees exchanging goods. Moorea, in the Society Islands (Tahiti), was at the time more generally called Eimeo. John Cleveley junior, who first worked as a caulker in Deptford Dockyard, is known to have escaped this through being taught watercolour painting by Paul Sandby at Woolwich, where the latter was drawing master at the Royal Military Academy from 1768. John was subsequently one of those who worked up drawings made on Captain Cook’s second voyage to the South Seas (1772–75) for engraving. Later, through their brother James, who was carpenter of the ‘Resolution’ on Cook’s third voyage (1776–80), both he and his twin brother Robert also had access to some of the artwork produced on that. John did not travel on either expedition himself but took the opportunity presented by a ready market for South Seas images. He composed four pictures said on the subsequent prints from them and on other advertising to have been based on sketches 'Drawn on the Spot' by James: these were engraved by Francis Jukes and published by Thomas Martyn in 1787-88. However, some doubts have been cast on how true this was, given that elements in the images are based on wider contemporary European iconography of the Pacific (see Rüdiger Joppien and Bernard Smith, 'The Cleveley problem', vol. III, pp. 216-221 in 'The Art of Cook's Voyages' [3 vols., Yale UP, 1988]). This is one of a set of three paintings in the NMM collection relating to these engravings, probably by the same hand. The other two are BHC1838 and BHC1939. Based on their general characteristics and quality they are more likely to be based on the prints than being Cleveley's original images. While he did paint in oils, few are known and he was much more productive as a watercolourist. This and practical reasons suggest it is more likely his originals for the prints were drawings. For the print related to this painting see PAI0472.
Date made 1780s

Artist/Maker style of John Cleveley, the Younger
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Presented by Captain A. W. F. Fuller through The Art Fund
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements Painting: 457 mm x 597 mm: Frame: Storage frame
  • 'Resolution' and 'Discovery' at Moorea (BHC1896)
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