Unknown artist (Artist), John James Barralet (After), Sydney Parkinson (After)

A War canoe of New Zealand with a view of Gable End Foreland

A War canoe of New Zealand with a view of Gable End Foreland by Unknown artist, John James Barralet, Sydney Parkinson

Artwork Detail

Sydney Parkinson was one of two artists on board James Cook's first voyage to the Pacific (1768-1771). A specialist botanical artist, Parkinson was called upon to draw a much broader range of subjects following the death of the other artist on board. Parkinson, himself, died on the return leg, but his numerous drawings and watercolours were used as the basis for the engravings that illustrated John Hawkesworth's official account of the voyage.

Cook and his crew encountered many waka (canoe) during their time in New Zealand's waters. Parkinson seeks to convey the carving of the canoes, the dress, adornment and weaponry of their occupants, as well as relating the spirited manner in which they engaged the Endeavour's crew. He wrote of one such encounter, "they behaved in a very irresolute manner, sometimes seeming as if they would attack us; then taking fright, and retreating a little;...shaking their lances and bone bludgeons at us, talking very loud and blustering, lolling out their tongues, and making other signs of defiance". From the safety of the Endeavour the crew were unsure how to interpret these actions, Parkinson went as far as describing them as "a truly comic act".

Back in England, artist John James Barralet used Parkinson's pen and ink sketch to develop a watercolour which became the basis for the engraving. In doing this he made several significant changes. Where Parkinson's canoe held 25 people, Barralet's waka holds 55. He has also set the canoe within a bay, complete with other waka in the distance, and slightly altered the perspective to give a greater feeling of distance between the viewer and the craft. Barralet otherwise remained faithful to the original, particularly the canoe form and its carving, and the attire and weaponry of its occupants. It is a rare example of a print in which the detail has not been lost or otherwise transformed through translation. This is particular noticeable when it is compared with R B Godfrey's engraving of a canoe that illustrated the publication of Parkinson's journal.

A War canoe of New Zealand with a view of Gable End Foreland
Unknown artist, John James Barralet, Sydney Parkinson
Production date
240 x 570 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 2009
Accession no
No known copyright restrictions
New Zealand Art
Display status
On display

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