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John Webber

1751-1793

John Webber (1751-1793) was the official artist on Captain James Cook's third voyage of exploration from 1776 to 1780. He was the son of a Swiss Sculptor Abraham Waber (Webber) who married an English woman Mary Quant. Webber first trained as an artist in Switzerland, then studied at the Academie Royale in Paris. In 1775, at the age of 24, he continued his studies at the Royal Academy in London with other artists who had worked on images from Cook's earlier voyages, including Nathaniel Dance and Francesco Bartolozzi. Webber's work was noticed by Daniel Solander, the Swedish naturalist who had sailed on Cook's first voyage, and it was Solander who recommended him for appointment as official artist on Cook's third voyage.

Webber's background as an accomplished portraitist and landscape artist interested in rural subjects, well qualified him to make drawings and paintings of the people, objects and places the expedition was to visit. Combined with the paintings by William Webb Ellis, surgeon's second mate on the DISCOVERY, the prolific Webber produced the most comprehensive visual record of any of Cook's voyages. He also painted Cook's portrait during the voyage.

Soon after returning to England, Webber completed several large scale paintings. He supervised the engraving of his work that accompanied the publication of various accounts of the voyage and exhibited several paintings at the Royal Academy. In 1785 he assisted Philippe De Loutherbourg's London stage spectacle Omai, or a trip around the world. From 1786 Webber produced his own softground etching series titled, Views in the South Seas, and continued to profit from his Pacific images until his death in 1793.