Marian Maguire

The Death of Captain Cook

The Death of Captain Cook by Marian Maguire

Artwork Detail

The accounts of Cook’s voyages often compared the societies and peoples encountered to classical civilisations, and many of the accompanying engraved illustrations utilised conventions of classical art, demonstrating how we as humans make sense of the unfamiliar through the familiar. Marian Maguire is very aware and interested in these processes, suggesting that “the Greeks are baggage; stowaways on the ships of history, underpinning culture just as the Catholic Church of my early years did.” She seeks to make their presence and influence on our history real in her series The Odyssey of Captain Cook. Maguire does this by including Greek warriors alongside the representations of historical personages and by drawing heavily on Greek black-figure vase painting.

The series draws an analogy between Cook’s journeys to the Pacific and the classical poem The Odyssey, in which the Greek hero Odysseus took ten years to return to his home from the Trojan wars. The connection with The Odyssey, not only relates to the epic nature and dangers of Cook’s voyages, but also the means by which both stories have been related, often at several removes from the events, places and people involved. Maguire, as a printmaker, is particularly fascinated by the ‘visual Chinese Whispers’ 18th-century engravers engaged in when interpreting the drawings made by Cook’s artists and adapting them as illustrations for publications; often combining aspects of several drawings to create composite images or adding detail where none existed. In revisiting this imagery, Maguire uses lithography instead of engraving, the sketchy quality of which gives the works a sense of informality, and underscores their speculative nature.

The Death of Captain Cook
Marian Maguire
Production date
767 x 570 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 2005
Accession no
Other ID
10 Sequence Number
Copying restrictions apply
New Zealand Art
Display status
Not on display

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