'View of Part of the Island of Ulietea [Raiatea]'

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. The impact of this work on Hodges' painting is evident in his small oil studies of the islands and coastlines.

This view, like BHC2376 to which it is the pendant, was probably painted looking north-east while the ‘Resolution’ was anchored in Haamanino Harbour, Raiatea, in September 1773. It is one of four small canvases of similar type and technique painted in the Society Islands (see also BHC1840 and BHC1937). The freshness of these paintings, their topographical accuracy and treatment of light indicate that they were done on the spot. The canvas is very thinly painted with a limited palette using contrasting shades of blue for the water and sky. Its compositional novelty is a striking departure from classical landscape conventions and provides a sense of eyewitness spontaneity. Hodges focuses less on the coastal profile and more on the peculiar atmospheric properties of the tropical climate, paying attention to the effects of glaring sunlight and sultry humidity in the early morning, climatic features then new to European artists. This evocation of the visual experience of tropical sun and heat was later echoed by one of the naturalists on the voyage, Johann Reinhold Forster:

'the setting sun commonly gilds all the sky and clouds near the horizon, with a lively gold-yellow or orange; it is, therefore, by no means extraordinary to see, at sun-setting, a greenish sky or cloud, and it may be observed frequently in Europe. But, as the rising and setting sun causes, between and about the tropics, the tincts of the sky and clouds to be infinitely brighter than any where else, it happens now and then, that all the appearances of the sky and clouds, are more striking and brilliant, and therefore more noticed.'

Object Details

ID: BHC2375
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Display - Pacific Encounters Gallery
Creator: Hodges, William
Date made: 1773
Exhibition: Art for the Nation; Ministry of Defence Art Collection
People: HM Admiralty
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Painting: 345 mm x 510 mm; Frame: 510 mm x 612 mm x 135 mm; Weight: 5.4 kg

Your Request

If an item is shown as “offsite”, please allow eight days for your order to be processed. For further information, please contact Archive staff:

Tel: (during Library opening hours)

Click “Continue” below to continue processing your order with the Library team.