'The Landing at Erramanga [Eromanga], one of the New Hebrides'

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.

Cook was in the New Hebrides from 4 June to 13 September 1774, during which time he spent six weeks making a careful survey of the island group. On 4 August 1774 he moored the 'Resolution' off the coast of the island of Eromanga. Following apparently peaceful entreaties from the local inhabitants to come ashore, Cook and a party of marines embarked for the beach. What followed was the most violent of the party's encounters with Melanesian Societies, with Cook firing on the chieftain and his party forced to return to the 'Resolution'.

This painting is an official record of the event, composed in London for engraving in the published account of the voyage, and has adopted the traditional mode of history painting. Hodges created his image from Cook’s account, portraying the Eromangans as the Europeans perceived them; less socially developed than the Tahitians, more aggressive and less curious. It is one of a group of panel paintings produced by Hodges of encounters with islanders, in which the European perception of each society's level of 'development' is portrayed.

Object Details

ID: BHC1903
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Display - Pacific Encounters Gallery
Creator: Hodges, William
Date made: Late 18th century; circa 1776
Exhibition: The Art and Science of Exploration, 1768-80
People: Ministry of Defence Art Collection
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Painting: 229 mm x 453 mm x 8 mm; Frame: 355 mm x 580 mm x 80 mm; Weight: 3.8 kg

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