William Hodges is best remembered as the draftsman who accompanied Captain James Cook, R. N., on his second voyage of exploration to the South Pacific aboard the Resolution (1772–75). Hodges’s paintings of Tahiti, New Zealand, and other islands of the South Pacific were revelatory in England, more for the sensational nature of Cook’s discovery of new and exotic places than as landscape paintings. Later, Hodges became the first professional European landscape painter to travel to India, where he executed for the East India Company numerous topographical views resonating with the history of the Mughal Empire.
William Hodges, 1744–1797: The Art of Exploration was a major reappraisal of Hodges’s remarkable career and his reputation as a landscape painter, arguing that he occupies a central place in the development of late eighteenth-century British art—that he was, in the words of Sir David Attenborough, “the most unjustly neglected British painter of the eighteenth century.” The exhibition considered Hodges’s work in the light of the rise of ethnology, the study of Indian history, the British encounter with indigenous peoples who, it was thought, were “without history,” as well as the development of modern science in the Age of Reason.
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, England:
July 6–November 21, 2004
Yale Center for British Art: January 27–April 24, 2005
Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand:
May 20–July 31, 2005
Containing masterpieces from the British Admiralty as well as from the Center’s own collection, the exhibition was organized by the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. It was curated by Geoff Quilley, Curator of Maritime Art at the National Maritime Museum; the organizing curator at the Center was Angus Trumble, Curator of Paintings and Sculpture. At the Center, The Art of Exploration was supported by Land Rover, Milford.