John Cleveley (1747-86)

John Cleveley (1747-86)
A View of Huaheine, A View of Moorea,
A View of Matavai Bay, A View of Owijhee
London: 1787-88
hand-colored aquatint engravings


These strikingly-colored views of sights encountered during Captain Cook’s third voyage appear very infrequently on the market. Sketched on the spot by James Cleveley, a carpenter on the ship Resolution under Cook’s command, the views were then completed as finished compositions by his brother John Cleveley, who also arranged for their publication as engravings.

After the death of Captain Cook during the course of his voyage, many artists found inspiration in what they perceived as his romanticized and tragic demise at sea. Furthermore, Cook’s published accounts of his journeys were immensely popular. His death left a void for the voracious public appetite for scenes of the exotic locations he had visited. Many artists issued their own visual versions of Cook’s journeys, some who had ties to the expeditions, many more who were not even remotely connected.

Cleveley’s stunning views of these bays and islands were some of the most beautiful produced during the years just after Cook’s death. They were, in addition, among the most accurate, as they were rendered on sight. All four views share a sense of excitement of the voyage itself, from the point of view of the men who manned the ships. It is a feeling that Cleveley’s views convey masterfully to the viewer.

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