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The Astrolabe under the command of Jules-Sébastian-César Dumont d’Urville departed from France on 28 March 1826, returning on 1 April 1829. Amongst other places the voyage took in the western, southern and eastern coasts of Australia (referred to as Nouvelle Hollande), the upper South Island and east coast of New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. Just over two months of the expedition were spent in New Zealand, from 10 January 1827 when landfall was made off the West Coast to 19 March when the ship set sail from the Bay of Islands for Tonga.
De Sainson as official artist to the voyage made numerous illustrations, as described by his Captain on return to France ‘His portfolio contains no fewer than 182 views, landscapes, scenes and pictures; 153 portraits, 112 plates of dwellings, monuments, costumes, arms and utensils, and 45 coastal profiles, sketches of trees, etc.’ (Collins, 1997, p.13) From these, selections were made for the Atlas Pittoresque to accompany the official account, which included 32 illustrations of New Zealand.
While the publishing model for voyages of exploration of the Captain’s official account and an atlas of illustrations was established by Cook’s third expedition, the Atlas to the Voyage de la corvette l’Astrolabe was unique in that it was the first such publication to use lithography to reproduce the plates. Indeed this innovative usage of the, relatively new, medium was used to promote the publication in its Prospectus.
Academic Roger Collins recognises the skill of the lithographers involved in the project, remarking that de Sainson’s original sketches demonstrate he ‘was not an outstanding draftsman’. Indeed his ‘reputation owes much to the skills of his interpreters.’ (Collins, 1991, p23)
[12.] Vue Prise dans les Bois au bassin des courans (Nouvelle Zélande), plate 43
This view of a waterfall in the bush near Currents Basin was made while the Astrolabe floundered in French Pass. D’Urville explained the area was so named, as ‘When the corvette was not a cable’s length from the pass the bar all at once became covered with boiling foam; and the water came rushing through whirlpools of an unbelievable violence. On the instant the corvette obeyed the actions of the currents, which carried her back rapidly into the bay of currents, making her turn around several times.’ The bush scene seems very distant from such drama and no doubt was a welcome reprieve for the artist, Louis de Sainson. The print showcases the depth and texture that can be achieved with lithography. The lithographer beautifully captures the dark dank quality of the New Zealand bush, yet the plants themselves seem quite generic.
- Vue Prise dans les Bois au bassin des courans (Nouvelle Zélande)
- Production date
- 314 x 230 mm
- Credit line
- Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 2010
- Accession no
- No known copyright restrictions
- New Zealand Art
- Display status
- Not on display
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