Isaacs Art Center

Historic Works on Paper

Current - June 4, 2016

John Webber (Pictured top: King of Owyhee, Bringing Presents to Capt. Cook), Jean Charlot (pictured lower left: Spear Thrower, serigraph, 1974), Huc-Mazelet Luquiens (pictured lower right: Honolulu Flower Market, lithograph, 1937).

The Isaacs Art Center is currently hosting a special exhibit of "Historic Works on Paper" that showcases original prints and watercolors by renowned artists of the 18th to 20th centuries.  On view for the first time is a rare collection of original engravings from the drawings of John Webber, the voyage artist for the Third Expedition of Captain James Cook, 1776-1780.  Portrayed are the remarkable people and places seen on the expedition from Antarctica to Tahiti, north to Alaska, then to Hawai'i and Kamchatka.

Complementing the Webber engravings are the modern lithographs by Jean Charlot, etchings by Huc-Mazelet Luquiens, and select watercolors by Robert Lee Eskridge and Ben Norris.



Antarctica – Australia – New Zealand – Cook Islands – Tonga – Tahiti – Kaua`i – Canada – Alaska – Hawai`i – Russia

Original engravings from the drawings of the voyage artist, John Webber.

Our gratitude is extended to Fedrico Biven, HPA Class of 1966, who gave these engravings to Isaacs Art Centerin loving memory of his wife, Marita Collins Biven.


“And so it came about that Europeans penetrated the Pacific Ocean and sailed its breadth and depth observing remarkable sights and acquiring an enormous knowledge of the people and their customs.”                     
Pacific Images: Views from Captain Cook’s Third Voyage John Dominis Holt; Forward, XI


“Who lived in the Pacific in the eighteenth century? What did the people and animals look like? How densely populated were the regions? What did they wear? Where did they live? How were they governed? What were their customs and manners? Did they speak a common language? What were their religious practices? By what means did they travel? How did they treat their family members, friends, and enemies?”   
Pacific Images: Views from Captain Cook’s Third Voyage, Eleanor C. Nordyke; Introduction, XVII



The Artist on Cook’s Third Expedition, John Webber  (1752 - 1793)

John Webber was the officially appointed artist for Captain James Cook’s third voyage of discovery around the Pacific (1776-1780).
Born in London, the son of a Swiss sculptor, John Webber was apprenticed in 1767 to Johann Aberli, one of the foremost Swiss landscape artists. After three years’ training with Aberli, he studied at the Académie Royale in Paris, making many sketches of rural landscapes and learning to paint in oils. In Paris Webber’s talent and good manners were noticed, and his early portraits were characteristically intimate and kind. He returned to London at 24, and was admitted to study at the Royal Academy, where he first exhibited in 1776.

On June 24, 1776, Webber was appointed official artist of the Cook expedition at the suggestion of Dr Daniel Solander, the Swedish naturalist who sailed with the first voyage with Cook. It was Webber’s job to make drawings and paintings of people and objects encountered on the journey. On this voyage first contact was established with Hawaiian and British Columbian indigenous people, and the crew were amongst the first Europeans to meet the original inhabitants of Alaska and Kamchatka. The illustrations Webber provided for the three-volume set of the official record of the voyage contributed to its immediate commercial success. After he returned to London Webber exhibited paintings and drawings relating to the expedition at the Royal Academy, and over the ensuing years he made a modest income from reworking drawings for sale on commission. However, apart from his connection with Cook, Webber was best known for his landscapes, and he continued to produce portraits until the time of his death.