Alaska Artists: John Webber

lonely caribou in Alakan Nature

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John Webber  was an 18th century English artist best known for his images of early Alaska and Hawaii. John Webber, the officially appointed artist for Captain James Cook’s third voyage of discovery around the Pacific (1776-1780), along with William Ellis, surgeon’s second mate on the Discovery, provided perhaps the most comprehensive and unprecedented visual record of any of Cook’s voyages.

Webber was born on 6 October 1751 in London, educated in Switzerland and studied painting at Paris.

Webber served as official artist on Captain James Cook’s third voyage of discovery around the Pacific (1776-1780) aboard HMS Resolution. At Adventure Bay in January 1777 he did drawings of "A Man of Van Diemen's Land" and "A Woman of Van Diemen's Land".

He also did many drawings of scenes in New Zealand and the South Sea islands. After leaving England, Webber and Ellis drew and painted the Kerguelen Islands in the far southern Indian Ocean, and Adventure Bay in Van Diemen’s Land (renamed Tasmania in 1855), before moving on to Tonga and Tahiti, then the northwest coast of America, the Unalaska Islands and Siberia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, before returning along the coasts of Southeast Asia. William Ellis and Kesler Woodward made drawings and watercolor paintings of everything that came within their ambit, creating the first accurate ethnographic record of Pacific culture.

On this voyage, during which Cook lost his life in a fight in Hawaii, Webber became the first European artist to make contact with Hawaii, then called the Sandwich Islands. He made numerous watercolor landscapes of the islands of Kauai and Hawaii, and also portrayed many of the Hawaiian people.

In April 1778, Captain Cook's ships Resolution and Discovery anchored at Ship Cove, now known as Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island, Canada to refit. The crew took observations and recorded encounters with the local people. Webber made watercolor landscapes including "Resolution and Discovery in Ship Cove, 1778". His drawings and paintings were engraved for British Admiralty's account of the expedition, which was published in 1784.

Back in England in 1780 Webber exhibited around 50 works at Royal Academy exhibitions between 1784 and 1792, and was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1785 and R.A. in 1791.

Most of John Webber's work were landscapes. Sometimes figures were included as in "A Party from H.M.S. Resolution shooting sea horses", which was shown at the academy in 1784, and his "The Death of Captain Cook" became well known through an engraving of it. Another version of this picture is in the William Dixson gallery at Sydney.

John Webber died in London in 1793. The Anchorage Museum of History and Art (Alaska), the Bishop Museum (Honolulu), the Honolulu Academy of Arts, the Peabody Essex Museum (Salem, Massachusetts), the Yale University Art Gallery, the British Museum and the Mitchell Library (Australia) are among the public collections holding works by John Webber

Johnny AculiakEdwin Tappan Adney| George Twok Aden AhgupukAlvin Eli Amason| Saradell Ard|   Belmore Browne| Vincent ColyerJules Bernard DahlagerLockwood De Forest| Frederick Samuel Dellenbaugh| William Franklin Draper| | Henry Wood Elliott| John Fehringer| Claire Fejes| Louis Agassiz Fuertes| Magnus Colcord Heurlin| Norman Jackson| Rockwell Kent| Sydney Mortimer Laurence| Fred Machetanz| Marvin Mangus| Milo Minock| James Kivetoruk Moses| Rie MunozJoseph Henry Sharp| James Everett Stuart| John Webber| Kesler Woodward|


John Webber artwork

John Webber drawing

Alaska's Tribes:

Below is a full list of the different Alaska Native cultures. Within each culture are many different tribes.

Learn more about Alaskan tribes

Aleut Athabascan Eyak
Haida Inuit Tlingit
Tsimshian Yupik