State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 18 October 1976


Three Drawings by William Hodges (1744–1797)

The La Trobe Library possesses three drawings of South Pacific subjects which were formerly attributed to John Webber, the artist who accompanied Captain Cook on his third voyage round the world. They have recently been recognized as being by William Hodges, Cook's draughtsman on the second circumnavigation. Never published, the existence of these drawings is not generally known. They now add to the number of drawings from the South Seas by this artist, which are held at the National Library at Canberra and the Mitchell Library in Sydney. As visual records from Captain Cook' voyages, they are important documents of the early exploration of the Pacific and it may therefore be fitting to give some information about their origin and content.1
Two of the drawings are landscapes, the third is a portrait of a native. I shall discuss these in the same order as they made their impression upon the artist while on expedition.
The View of Dusky Bay is a work in Indian ink on tinted paper, heightened with white; it measures 37.3 × 53.0 cm inside the frame, and bears an old label on the back reading ‘J. Webber View in Dusky Bay, New Zealand’. The inscription is mistaken about Webber' stay in Dusky Bay, for Dusky Bay was only visited during Captain Cook's second voyage, when Hodges and not Webber was the accompanying artist.2 Cook stayed there from 26 March to 28 April 1773.
Cook had left England in the summer of 1772, stopped at the Cape from 30 October to 22 November and then began a perilous and fatiguing voyage through Antarctic waters which lasted for 122 days. On 26 March 1773, Dusky Bay was the first land that came in sight. Relief and joy resound in George Forster's description of the ship's landfall of the New Zealand coast, and his feelings no doubt were shared by everybody on board.3
The Antarctic ice, snow and fog were behind them; after four months at sea New xualand now seemed the most desirable spot on earth.
At 3 o'clock in the afternoon Cook's ship, the Resolution, took her first anchorage at the mouth of Dusky Bay with the panorama of a magnificent mountain range before her. Forster, always sensitive to the powers of landscape, showed himself overwhelmed by the prospect and may well have expressed the general mood.4 However, because the anchorage was dangerous the stay here only lasted till 9 o'clock the next morning, when the Resolution sailed further into the bay of Pickersgill Harbour.
For the 29-year-old artist William Hodges, Dusky Bay probably meant more than just land; it meant the strange manifestation of nature and landscape that he as a draughtsman had been chosen to record. It was his first meeting with the Pacific, and it was perhaps in a mood of delight and expectation that he made a number of drawings of Dusky Bay, some of which he later reworked in oil.
The drawing in the La Trobe Library represents the mouth of Dusky Bay, as it was seen during 26 and 27 March, before the ship moved further into the bay. Three other versions of this view in watercolour exist in the Mitchell Library (Pxd 11: f.31, f.32, f.32a). They measure 38.2 × 54.3, 37.4 × 53.7 and 22.9 × 33.0 cm, and it should be noted that the first two are of almost identical size to the drawing in the La Trobe Library. Their correspondence in size is matched by correspondence in viewpoint and composition, as all three of them give the same visual record of the coastline from the anchorage. Differences exist in execution. The Dusky Bay drawing of f.32 is rendered predominantly in watercolour, in which the artist deals with the phenomena of light and cloud formations. This concern is also strongly expressed in f.32a. Both drawings show impressive signs of Hodges' spontaneous and bold handling of the watercolour medium. With a few swift brush-strokes the sky is structured into a pattern of brilliant blueish, greyish and purplish hues. Bernard Smith suggested that Hodges had become involved in depicting light and atmospheric effects naturalistically during his Antarctic voyage and that this concern had led him to a plcin air approach.5
Both watercolours, f.32 and f.32a, have been created out of this interest for luminosity, showing uncommonly bright and transparent colours which in my view reflect the artist's elation and relief in sight of land. Because their impression is so immediate, their handling so free and spirited, I suspect that they were Hodges' earliest sketches off the New Zealand coast.
If watercolour is dominant in these two works, it is somewhat lessened in the other view of Dusky Bay in the Mitchell Library, f.31. This view probably represents some time in the morning. The study of atmospheric qualities has been replaced by a concern for light; morning light rises from behind the mountains in the rear and is shed over the coast, sea and sky. In drawing f.31 clouds of faint yellow and pink tones are fleeting across the sky and give an impression of complete peacefulness. These gentle hues may again echo some inner relief after leaving the dark Antarctic.
Surprisingly perhaps, Hodges did not sustain this inclination for watercolour. As a medium it appears of little importance in his South Sea work, most of which is executed in pen, with grey and black ink washes to which only a tint of colour is occasionally added. There are quite a few land-and seascapes which completely lack any watercolour. The Dusky Bay drawing in the La Trobe Library belongs to this latter group and it is as such quite typical of the artist's style. Like many other views by Hodges it is characterised by strong black and white contrasts, and by the schematic execution of the waves and foliage. But in spite of working in a medium of only limited expression, Hodges successfully masters the problems of light by a variety of shadows and glittering patches on the water. He also introduces a feeling for air and space into this picture and thus translates a mere topographical view into a well-balanced and nicely handled composition.
Judging from the strong concentration of light inside the bay, the time of day is most likely morning again, as in the drawing f.31 in the Mitchell Library. With the latter it also shares the same viewpoint; in, fact the similarity between these two works is so close that one must wonder if Hodges set himself the task of executing two versions of the same view in two different media. The interest in atmospheric and climatic conditions which was very strong in the Mitchell drawings f.32 and f.32a has considerably decreased in these works. Immediacy and the rendering of a temporary state of nature in the former have now been replaced by a calmer more idealized approach. Because of this, it would seem to me that drawing f.31 in the Mitchell Library and the La Trobe Library drawing are both slightly later in execution. Whether both were done in the morning of 27 March, shortly before the Resolution moved to Pickersgill Harbour, or if only one was taken on the spot serving as a model for the other, or if in fact both represent a much later state, is perhaps a question which in the absence of more detailed knowledge of Hodges' working method must remain open.
The second drawing in the La Trobe Library represents a group of Maoris in their canoe; executed in pen and Indian ink with tints of watercolour, it measures 37.5 × 53.0 cm and is thus almost identical in size to the Dusky Bay drawing. Close examination of its surface reveals that the sheet has been made up from two strips of paper. For most of the length of the picture the dividing line coincides with the horizon, before it rises above the head of the standing native and from there continues to the other end of the drawing. It may have been that Hodges, discontented with the sky of the drawing, repeated the upper part and then flitted it to the lower part of the composition. It can also be observed that the foreground is not quite finished, the left hand of the declaiming native having been overlooked. Only faint pencil lines reveal that this hand is holding a plant. The ‘collage’ character and the incompleteness of the figure suggest that this drawing could not have been a commissioned work done after Hodges' return to England but was actually executed during the voyage, perhaps only a short time after the incident that it depicts.
The place of action is Queen Charlotte Sound, the date 4 June 1773. After the stay at Dusky Bay, Cook had proceeded to Queen Charlotte Sound to rendezvous with Capt.

View of Dusky Bay –- La Trobe Library

Furneaux in the Adventure. On the morning of 4 June, only a few days before the boats' departure to Tahiti, a double canoe, manned by 28 natives was seen approaching from the north. It was the largest boat noticed so far and therefore caused some sensation. It stopped opposite the Resolution, then two chiefs stood up to address Cook's party on the ship. Georg Forster gives a vivid account of this scene.6 According to him the first chief held a green flax plant in his hand, thus symbolizing his peaceful intentions. The second chief, Forster tells us, possessed an impulsive temperament and gave emphasis to his speech with considerable gesticulation. In representing this scene Hodges fused the two orators into one person, and it would not have been important to mention the unfinished left hand of the native were it not for the flax plant that he held.
After the Maoris had finished their address, Cook invited them on board. During the ensuing trading the Forsters obtained a rare worked shell trumpet which after their return to England they gave to the naturalist, Thomas Pennant.7 Hodges' drawing thus represents a particular incident during the second voyage and indirectly documents the acquisition of certain precious Maori artifacts.
At the arrival of the canoe Hodges, like Forster with whose account this drawing so closely corresponds, must have been standing at the rail of the Resolution, sketch-book in hand. The Print Room of the British Museum possesses a sketch in Indian ink (8.8 × 33.0 cm) representing the same group of Maoris in their boat. Contained in an album of mixed drawings, most of which are by Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg, R.A. (1740–1812), the sketch has so far been attributed to this artist8; it is here first published as a work by Hodges.9 It bears all the signs of a swift, spontaneous and competent rendering of the scene. With only a few brush strokes a shorthand impression of the moment is created. Though only a few wash lines are involved, the seated figures, some of which are oarsmen, show sculptural quality and lively variety in their various positions. In the subsequent La Trobe Library drawing the arrangement of the seated natives has been by and large retained; the group has only been slightly increased from 14 to 17 in number. Proceeding from the preparatory sketch Hodges reworked the whole scene on a larger scale including the two ships, the rocky coast and the mountain range on the other side of the sound. A change in the conception of the background or the sky then probably led to the execution of the second upper part of the drawing.
Next to these two drawings from New Zealand, which could represent a pair, the La Trobe Library preserves an additional drawing depicting the head of a man of Mallicolo. The drawing is in crayon and measures 54.0 × 37.0 cm. An old inscription ‘Mallicolo’ appears on the lower part of the frame.
The island of Mallicolo was visited by Cook on his second voyage on 22 and 23 July 1774. The inhabitants looked very different from the Polynesians visited so far and both Cook and Forster commented upon their striking appearance10; they wore no clothes, had woolly short-cropped hair, thick lips, a very dark complexion, and the septum of their noses was perforated by a crescent-shaped piece of stone. On 22 July four natives came on board, and Hodges took several portraits of them. Forster, who witnessed this scene, comments that the natives ‘were easily persuaded to sit for their portraits, and seemed to have an idea of the representations’.11 There is a charcoal sketch, heightened in white, for the Man of Mallicolo in the Public Archives of Canada, Ottawa (47.6 × 35.6 cm), and a drawing in red and black chalk of another man holding his bow and arrow in the Print Room of the British Museum (22.8 × 18.3 cm).12 Compared with these versions which may be regarded as preparatory drawings, or field-works, the La Trobe portrait is not only larger but the most accomplished of the three.
The drawing is mounted on a piece of cardboard, inscribed underneath in capital letters ‘Mallicolo’ and its actual representation adorned by a delicate frame drawn in ink. These characteristics apply also to a group of 18 other portrait drawings by Hodges in the National Library of Australia, which also share with the La Trobe drawing almost identical sizes. All are bust drawings and highly finished in red crayon. The NLA drawings were formerly in the possession of

Group of Maoris in their Canoe — La Trobe Library

the British Admiralty but were placed by the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, on indefinite loan in the National Library (the then Commonwealth National Library) in 1936. They not only form the major group of portraits known by Hodges; it is also of particular interest that 11 out of the 18 were turned into prints for the illustrated edition of Cook's second voyage. There is therefore strong reason to believe in a strong relationship between their submission to the Admiralty and their subsequent execution as prints. Considering that they were especially fitted up by the artist before they were presented to the Admiralty, it would seem that the portrait of the Man of Mallicolo, framed and mounted in the same way as the drawings in the National Library, at one time also belonged to that group which the Admiralty had regarded as possible illustrations of Cook's narrative. Unfortunately there is no information about the provenance of the La Trobe drawing, but I think it possible that it was split off from the Admiralty collection, like other portrait drawings which also belonged to this series and which have meanwhile found their way into other institutions.13
Not all of the portrait drawings which Hodges had worked up and submitted to the Admiralty were actually recommended for illustration. At first sight, Caldwell's engraving of the Man of the Island of Mallicolo, pl. XLVII in Cook's Voyage towards the South Pole and Round the World (London, 1777) seems only indirectly related to our drawing, since the native thus reproduced is fully draped around his shoulders. This representation, however, does not reflect the actual state of Hodges' drawings. Forster who praised the engraved portrait for its characteristic expression, declared the drapery as a grave mistake which distorted the fact that the natives of Mallicolo went entirely naked; he explains ‘that the defect in the drawing (no doubt, of the plate) has made it necessary to infringe the costume and to throw a drapery over the shoulder’.14
Keeping in mind Forster's explanation opens up the possibility of comparing the engraving with the La Trobe drawing. Both representations correspond closely in point of composition as well as in similarity of their features. But there are differences in the attributes: instead of a nose-stone with which the man of Mallicolo in the print is adorned, the native on the La Trobe drawing wears a necklace and a ring in his left ear. Nearer to the engraving in this respect is the sketch in the British Museum; it not only depicts the nose-stone, but it can also claim a higher degree of physiognomical likeness than the La Trobe drawing. On the other hand it differs from the illustration in Cook's narrative by representing the native with his bow and arrow. An early proof after this drawing by Caldwell, which is also preserved in the British Museum, still follows this version. But the fact that the final engraving in Cook's travel account is without the bow and arrow must suggest that this concept of the native was ultimately abandoned in favour of a representation which is again nearer to the La Trobe drawing.
Against this somewhat confusing background it is hard to say in exactly what relationship the La Trobe drawing stands to the engraving. Was it of any consequence for the execution of the engraving? Or does it rather reflect Hodges' first idea for a portrait of a native of Mallicolo, but which was later exchanged for a drawing closer to the one in the British Museum? If that was the case it would help to explain why this drawing was separated from the Admiralty group of portraits and subjected to a very different course of provenance.
The discovery of these three drawings contributes to our knowledge of Hodges' works from the South Seas. It is hoped that by discussing them individually it has been possible to show that each is distinguished for some special reason. The View of Dusky Bay brings the number of representations of this part of the New Zealand coast up to four and thus further demonstrates Hodges' interest in this particular landscape. As a pen and wash work it differs from the wash and watercolour versions in the Mitchell Library and makes us aware that Hodges would sometimes make identical drawings in different media. The Maori group in their boat is a particularly welcome visual record as it illustrates an incident of the second voyage of which no representation had been known before.

Head of a man of Mallicolo — La Trobe Library

It has been possible to connect this picture with a preparatory sketch in the British Museum which owing to its long misattribution to the artist P. J. de Loutherbourg had not before been recognized as a work by Hodges. The drawing also gives an idea of Queen Charlotte Sound, of which no other representation has so far come to light. The portrait drawing of the Man of Mallicolo claims interest as a work … which can be seen in line with two other drawings of natives from that island; finished in red crayon it is the most accomplished example of the three. It might at one stage have formed part of the group of portrait drawings of South Sea Islanders which Hodges submitted to the British Admiralty as possible illustrations of Captain Cook's narrative but was probably then replaced by another drawing.
Hodges' South Sea work has never been examined from a historical point of view, nor has a catalogue raisonné of his works yet been published15. Today, Hodges' work is scattered widely in institutions in Australia, Canada, England and New Zealand, of which only a few examples have ever been reproduced. A critical examination of his sketches, drawings, paintings and engravings, as well as of their interlocking dependency would not only enable us to assess his work more justly, but it would also give invaluable help to anybody who is seriously studying the impact and the achievements of Captain Cook's second voyage.
Rudiger Joppien

By courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum

By courtesy of the Public Archives of Canada


I inspected these drawings on 16 October 1975 while staying in Australia as a Visiting Fellow of the Humanities Research Centre at the Australian National University, Canberra. I am very grateful to the Humanities Research Centre for organising my trip to Melbourne and for assisting my research in Australia in every possible way.


Cook had first discovered and named Dusky Bay on 14 March 1770 when on his first voyage but at that time had not entered it.


George Forster, A Voyage Round the World (London, 1777) vol. 1, pp. 123–24: ‘The weather was delightfully fair and generally warm, when compared to what we had lately experienced; and we glided along by insensible degrees, wafted by light airs, past numerous rocky islands, each of which was covered with wood and shrubberies where numerous evergreens were sweetly contrasted and mingled with the various shades of autumnly yellow … We had long and eagerly wished for the land and its vegetable productions and therefore could not but eye the prospect before us with peculiar delight and with emotions of joy and satisfaction.’


Forster, op. cit. vol. 1, p. 124.


Bernard Smith, European Vision and the South Pacific (Oxford Univ. Press, 1960) pp. 41–45.


Forster, op. cit., vol. 1, pp. 223–25. A more abridged account is given by Cook in his Voyage Towards the South Pole and Round the World (London, 1777), vol. 1, pp. 125–26.


See Peter Gathercole, ‘A Maori Shell Trumpet at Cambridge’ in Problems in Economic and Social Archaeology (ed. by I. H. Longworth, G. de G. Sieveking and K. E. Wilson) (London, Gerald Duckworth & Co., 1975), pp. 187–199.


Folio volume 201.c.5; cf. Laurence Binyon, Catalogue of Drawings by British Artists and Artists of Foreign Origin working in Great Britain … in the British Museum, vol. III (London, 1902), p. 77, no. 88c, under the erroneous title ‘A man addressing a group seated on the ground’.


In addition to this sketch there are some other 8 drawings by Hodges in this album which I discuss in my article ‘Loutherbourg's pantomime “Omai” and the artists of Captain Cook’ (in preparation).


Forster, op. cit., vol. 2, pp. 206, 209. Cook called them the ‘most ugly, ill-proportioned people I ever saw, and in every respect different from any we had met with in this sea’ Cook, op. cit., vol. 2, p. 34.


Forster, op. cit., vol. 2, p. 209.


J. C. Beaglehole (ed.), The Journals of Captain James Cook on his Voyages of Discovery, vol. II: The Voyage of the Resolution and Adventure 1772–75, Publ. series of the Hakluyt Society (Cambridge, 1961), pl. 73 a.


An example of this kind is the red chalk drawing of the Man of Tanna (55.0 × 37.5 cm), purchased at Christie's, London, on 19 March 1973 by the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, repr. in the Turnbull Library Record. Wellington, New Zealand, October 1973, vol. 6, no. 2, pl. 2.


Forster, op. cit., vol. 2, pp. 209–10.


A catalogue of the visual records made on Captain Cook's three circumnavigations has been prepared by Professor Bernard Smith of Sydney but is still awaiting publication.