Essay about Analyzing William Hodges

Essay about Analyzing William Hodges

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William Hodges opened the South Seas to the European imagination in the eighteenth century. His landscape paintings of exotic beauty and sensitivity changed European’s outlook on the world beyond Europe and ignited the yearnings for a paradise with the surge of Western colonialism. Marking a departure from the classical landscape tradition was Hodges’ en plein air technique, which infused his mythical imagery with natural light and richly compelling beauty peculiar to the southern hemisphere. In presenting historic events, he proceeded with intuitive understanding of a whole, not with particularities of details, for unambiguous quality of visual documentation. Some contemporary art critiques say, however, Hodges is just an artist of empire, who danced to the chorus of “Rule Britannia” (Jones 2004) and accelerated the death of ancient South Pacific world. But his contribution to British landscape imagery as the first professional landscape artist to represent the Pacific should not be underrated.
Hodges was the most widely travelled artist of his day, representing extensive global territories so profusely. Apprenticed to landscape painter Richard Wilson, he was on the second voyage to the Pacific with Captain Cook as a draughtsman in 1772. This expedition’s artist, employed by the Admiralty, produced many portrait sketches and large-scale landscape oil paintings of coastal scenes in the South Pacific and the Antarctic. In 1778, he visited India as a first professional landscape painter, and worked for the East India Company for six years. Later in life, he travelled Europe, and briefly worked as a landscape painter at the Pantheon Opera House in St. Petersburg, Russia. Hodges staged a one-man show in London, centered on two epic l...


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...documentation, which demonstrate his mix of immediacy and idealization. Despite the Enlightenment and imperialism ended, Hodges’s place as a professional landscape painter in the art history should not be underrated. That is why his paintings are still at display at the Queen’s House at Greenwich in London.



Works Cited

Bernard Smith. Imagining the Pacific: In the Wake of the Cook Voyages (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1992) p 131-134

Geoff Quilley and John Bonehill. William Hodges 1744-1797: The Art of Exploration (New Haven, Yale University Press, 2004) p 1-4

Mark Cocker. Rivers of Blood, Rivers of Gold: Europe’s Conquest of Indigenous Peoples (London, Grove Press Books, 1998) p 169-171

Victoria S. Lockwood. Tahitian Transformation: Gender and Capitalist Development in a Rural Society (Boulder, Rienner Publishers Inc., 1993) p 22-25

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