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John Webber

1751 – 1793

When John Webber R.A. (c.1752-1793), the son of a Swiss sculptor, living in London, submitted his work to the Royal Academy Schools, one of the first to admire his paintings was Dr Daniel Solander, the Swedish naturalist who had accompanied Cook and Banks on the first voyage. Knowing that no artist had yet been selected for Cook's voyage, Solander recommended Webber to the Admiralty and Royal Society. His appointment was made just days before the departure. Webber was lucky enough to escape the massacre in Hawaii, where Cook met his death, and returned to London in October 1780. On his return he was employed by the Admiralty to make finished drawings and engravings to illustrate the official journey of the trip. He completed a series of paintings for the Admiralty, was elected a member of the Royal Academy and continued to paint landscapes in England and abroad until his death in 1793. HIs posthumous portrait of Captain James Cook, painted in 1782, shows not only the hand of a fine artist, but also a sensitivity and understanding of the sitter - a man Webber had known well and greatly admired.

Updated 2018