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Review of the war galleys at Tahiti ['The Fleet of Otaheite assembled at Oparee']

BHC2395
Oil paintings

Object connections:

Collection Oil paintings, Fine art
ExhibitionsThe Art and Science of Exploration, 1768-80
User collections ESH6067WritingEmpire by ESH6067WritingEmpire
Gallery locationPacific Encounters Gallery (Floor plans)

Object details:

Object ID BHC2395
Description (Updated August 2018) Hodges' paintings of the Pacific are vivid records of British exploration. He was appointed by the Admiralty to record the places discovered on Cook's second voyage, undertaken in the 'Resolution' and 'Adventure', 1772-75. This was primarily in the form of drawings, with some oil sketches, many later converted to engravings in the official voyage account. He also completed large oil paintings for exhibition in London on his return, which exercised lasting influence on European ideas of the Pacific. The National Maritime Museum holds 26 oils relating to the voyage of which 24 were either painted for or acquired by the Admiralty. Cook's main purpose on this expedition was to locate, if possible, the much talked-of but unknown Southern Continent and further expand knowledge of the central Pacific islands, in which Hodges' records of coastal profiles were in part important for navigational reasons. But, the party also sought to understand and record different Pacific societies, establishing a hierarchy of what they saw as different stages of development. When Cook returned to Tahiti during his second voyage in April 1774, he found the islanders preparing for war against the neighbouring island of Moorea. His party were impressed by the canoes and men massed for attack, which were interpreted as a mark of Tahiti’s more developed state than other Polynesian societies. It also played to European interests in extravagant public spectacle, with the galleys and crews decked out particularly splendidly. One of the Tahitian chieftains suggested that Hodges record the scene, which he primariy did in one of his most spectacular pen and wash panoramic drawings from the voyage, which is 76 inches (2m) across (BL Add. MS15743, f.8). He later painted this detailed oil study based on its central part for engraving in the published voyage account under the title 'The Fleet of Otaheite assembled at Oparee' and well as devoloping a less literal and very big painting - his largest surviving one - to exhibit at the Royal Academy (see BHC2374).
Date made 1776

Artist/Maker Hodges, William
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Materials oil on panel
Measurements Painting: 240 mm x 465 mm; Frame: 344 mm x 575 mm x 75 mm; Weight: 3.4 kg
Parts
  • Review of the war galleys at Tahiti ['The Fleet of Otaheite assembled at Oparee'] (BHC2395)
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