'View of Resolution [Vaitahu] Bay in the Marquesas'

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. One of Hodges’ tasks on the ship was the routine training of officers to make such profiles. The impact of this work on his painting is evident in his small oil studies of the islands and coastlines.

This is one of two similar canvases painted on the spot during Cook’s second voyage (see also BHC2418). These are strikingly unconventional departures from the artistic tradition of landscape painting. Above all, they show a western artist’s attempts to come to terms for the first time with the effects of light in the southern hemisphere, combining thinly painted skies with thick impasto on the headlands and waters. Here Hodges shows the dark headland stark against the tropical light, including the peak dwellings recorded by Cook in his Journal.

Cook's 'rediscovery' of the Marquesas islands in April 1774 verified their finding and naming by the Spanish explorer Álvaro de Mendaña in 1595, which had been the first real European encounter with Polynesian societies. This study of Vaitahu Bay by Hodges is thought to be his last done on the voyage, made with dwindling supplies of paint. As he seems to have made no other oil studies since the 'Resolution' left the Society Islands in September 1773, the relocation of these significant islands must have seemed a crucial subject to record.

Object Details

ID: BHC2419
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Display - Pacific Encounters Gallery
Creator: Hodges, William
Date made: 1774
Exhibition: Art for the Nation; Ministry of Defence Art Collection The Art and Science of Exploration, 1768-80
People: Ministry of Defence Art Collection; HM Admiralty
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Painting: 495 mm x 635 mm; Frame: 625 mm x 780 mm x 110 mm;Frame inc.cartouche: 690 mm x 780 mm x 110 mm; Weight: 10 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.