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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Sir Joseph Banks, c. 1788

Benjamin West and John Raphael Smith (engraver)

mezzotint on paper (frame: 90.0 cm x 65.0 cm, plate-mark: 59.5 cm x 37.5 cm)

Joseph Banks (1743–1820) was born into a wealthy English family. His largely self-taught expertise in botany earned him fellowship into the Royal Society at the age of 23. At 25, he convinced the Society to send him as a naturalist with Cook’s first Pacific voyage. Banks funded the additions of two other naturalists, two artists, a secretary, and two black servants. During the voyage he collected hundreds of specimens of flora and fauna, relying frequently on Indigenous interlocutors to understand what he was observing. Upon the Endeavour’s return, it was Banks more than Cook who symbolised Pacific voyaging to a newly fascinated British public. Banks quarrelled with the Admiralty over his accommodations for the second voyage, pulling out of it at the last minute. Possibly regretful of his tempestuous stand, Banks hungered for every detail of the voyage when it returned in 1774 and was delighted to take over responsibility for Mai from the Admiralty.

The Royal Academy’s 1773 exhibition featured portraits of the highly-topical Banks by Joshua Reynolds and the American-born Benjamin West. West’s portrayal included the young scientist draped in a cloak of New Zealand flax with Oceanic souvenirs and Sydney Parkinson’s drawings all about him.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2010

Accession number: 2010.15

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Benjamin West (age 50 in 1788)

John Raphael Smith (age 36 in 1788)

Sir Joseph Banks KCB (age 45 in 1788)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Sir Joseph Banks, c. 1788 Benjamin West, John Raphael Smith
Sir Joseph Banks, c. 1788 Benjamin West, John Raphael Smith
Sir Joseph Banks, c. 1788 Benjamin West, John Raphael Smith
Sir Joseph Banks, c. 1788 Benjamin West, John Raphael Smith

In a good paddock

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2011

Celebrating a new painted portrait of Joseph Banks, Sarah Engledow spins a yarn of the naturalist, the first kangaroo in France and Don, a Spanish ram.

Portrait of Dr Johann Reinhold Forster and his son George Forster, c. 1780 Jean Francois Rigaud
Portrait of Dr Johann Reinhold Forster and his son George Forster, c. 1780 Jean Francois Rigaud
Portrait of Dr Johann Reinhold Forster and his son George Forster, c. 1780 Jean Francois Rigaud
Portrait of Dr Johann Reinhold Forster and his son George Forster, c. 1780 Jean Francois Rigaud

To the end of the earth

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2009

The portrait of Dr. Johann Reinhold Forster and his son George Forster from 1780, is one of the oldest in the NPG's collection.

Portrait of Captain James Cook RN, 1782 John Webber
Portrait of Captain James Cook RN, 1782 John Webber
Portrait of Captain James Cook RN, 1782 John Webber
Portrait of Captain James Cook RN, 1782 John Webber

Thrown together

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2009

Shipmates for years, James Cook and Joseph Banks each kept a journal but neither man shed light on their relationship.

We would like to thank our partners.
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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.