'[Cascade Cove] Dusky Bay'

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.

He developed this large painting after his return to England in 1775 combining the drama and beauty of the New Zealand landscape with a sensitive portrayal of a Maori family that Cook’s company encountered in the Bay. Hodges also elides a number of different events during the ships’ stay there.

The rainbow and waterfall were discovered when some of Cook's party sailed to an inlet from Dusky Bay in April 1773, to look at the natural landscape. This sight, perceived as 'one of Nature's most romantic Scenes', prompted them to name it Cascade Cove. They found it beautiful and full of grandeur as water fell down the rocky chasm, and steamy water mist rapidly soaked their clothes. They climbed high to look down on a rainbow produced by the rays of the noon sun refracted in the cascade's spray. The landscape consisted of steep brown rocks fringed on the summits with overhanging shrubs and trees. Broken rocks were covered in mosses, ferns, grasses and various flowers, whilst shrubs and trees hid the stream's course from the sun. The cascade was loud and reverberating, and birdsong completed the beauty of the wild and romantic spot. Hodges attempted to capture the sensation of sublime beauty centred on the waterfall and the rainbow. As the ships left Pickersgill Harbour, they saw a particularly perfect rainbow, which was interpreted as a sign of divine deliverance and appreciation of their struggles in the Antarctic ice.

The Maori family was first encountered on the north-east point of Indian Island on 6 April 1772, and Hodges made a number of drawings of them. In the left foreground of this painting, the Maoris manifest honour and dignity in Hodges' portrayal of their dress, weapons and demeanour at the moment of contact. Through their depiction of natural nobility, courage and suppressed fear, they represent Hodges's careful attempt to portray his experience. It is significant that in this realisation of personal experience the artist has departed both from a purely romantic depiction and ethnographic reportage. The painting is one of four (or two pairs) for the Admiralty which are all of the same size, the others being BHC1932, BHC1906 and BHC2377. It is signed and dated, 'Hodges - 75', lower left.

Object Details

ID: BHC2371
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Display - Pacific Encounters Gallery
Creator: Hodges, William
Vessels: Resolution (purchased 1771)
Date made: 1775
Exhibition: Art for the Nation; Ministry of Defence Art Collection The Art and Science of Exploration, 1768-80
People: HM Admiralty
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Frame: 1588 mm x 2147 mm x 115 mm;Overall: 70 kg;Painting: 1359 x 1930 mm

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