A view in Dusky Bay by William Hodges

A view in Dusky Bay by William Hodges

A view in Dusky Bay, New Zealand, 1773, by William Hodges.

William Hodges (1744–97) was the official artist on James Cook’s second voyage to the Pacific (1772–74). He was employed, in Cook’s words, ‘to make drawings and paintings of such places in the countries we should touch at, as might be proper to give a more perfect idea thereof, than could be formed from written descriptions only.’ In other words, his brief was topographical.

Though Hodges did paint topographical studies in watercolour and pencil, his finished oils for the Admiralty were entirely conventional performances of the classical ideal of Claude Lorrain or the sublime and picturesque of Salvator Rosa, to which he added only very few signs of locality.

After returning to England, Hodges did a number of oil paintings of Dusky Bay. In this painting, he presents the bay as wild and sublime. He focuses on the dramatic sunset, framed by water, trees and distant peaks – with a noble Māori warrior added in the foreground to heighten the exotic atmosphere.

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