'[A] view of Maitavie Bay, [in the island of] Otaheite [Tahiti]'

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.

Tahiti provided Hodges with a unique opportunity to present to the English public, for the first time, the brilliant colour of the tropical South Sea. Matavai Bay is visible in the foreground with the steeply rising hills of the land to the right. 'Resolution' and 'Adventure', flying the red ensign and commissioning pendants, are visible at anchor in the middle distance, with a settlement beyond on the left. Another small settlement is visible on the shoreline to the right, with smoke rising from the trees to the right. A large tent that Cook erected to house his coopers, the guard and sick members of his crew is visible on Point Venus, the promontory on the left. This was the site of his old fort, built as a shore base on the 'Endeavour' voyage of 1768. In the left foreground a large canoe is positioned with three men, a woman and a child on board. In the centre a small craft with two men on board moves through the shallows and on the far right several fishing boats sit at anchor. The man on the far left stands in a classical attitude while the two other men are seated. The man facing towards the viewer sits by bunches of bananas and yams, and next to him the woman, with European features, sits naked to the waist, holding a small child. Her features indicate that although this was intended to be an accurate ethnographic description, on his return to England (when Hodges executed this painting) he adhered to European art conventions. Similarly the image demonstrates the presence of Europeans through the inclusion of the 'Resolution', 'Adventure' and the large tent, but its attempt to integrate them in the landscape reveals a propagandist belief in their role.

The picture is one of several that Hodges painted on the same theme and was probably developed from one submitted to the Royal Academy in 1776, probably that now in the Yale Center for British Art and both relate to a known small oil study likely to have been done on the spot. It is believed to be one of Hodges's most ambitious images and is one of four (or two pairs) for the Admiralty which are all of the same size, the others being BHC1906, BHC2371 and BHC2377. The title of a number of Hodges paintings for the Admiralty, including this one, were painted in large letters on the back of the original canvas but were obscured by later lining without being well recorded. In a number of cases it has been possible to read them in whole or part by raking light, as here. The Museum frequently exhibites this painting with the more modern one of '"Resolution" and "Adventure" in Matavai Bay, Tahiti'.

Object Details

ID: BHC1932
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Display - Pacific Encounters Gallery
Creator: Hodges, William
Places: Tahiti
Vessels: Resolution (purchased 1771); Adventure (purchased 1771)
Date made: 1776
Exhibition: Ships, Clocks & Stars: The Quest for Longitude
People: Ministry of Defence Art Collection
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Frame: 1585 x 2153 x 115 mm;Overall: 86 kg;Painting: 1372 x 1932 x 32 mm

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