William Hodges was the artist on James Cook's second voyage to New Zealand in 1772–75. He did drawings on the voyage that were subsequently turned into engravings, and, after his return to England, he also completed some oil paintings such as this one, which is dated 1776. The painting is a superb example of the sublime – an effect painters at the time tried to evoke. The sublime was a sense of awe in the face of the terrifying drama of the natural world. In this painting we see cascading rocks in the foreground, the extraordinary waterspout with two other spouts behind, a black sky lit up with flashes of lightning – which have set fire to a pā precariously sited on the distant promontory – and a sailing ship battling the stormy sea. The drama of the situation and the play of dark and light are characteristic of sublime painting.
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Royal Museums Greenwich
Oil on canvas by William Hodges, 1776
© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
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