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 John Webber  (1752 - 1793)

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Lived/Active: United Kingdom      Known for: Cook Voyage sketches 1778

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John Webber
An example of work by John Webber
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

John Webber was an expedition artist noted for his images of early Alaska and Hawaii, which he created while serving as official artist on Captain James Cook's exploration of the Northwest and the Pacific. On this voyage where 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 did numerous watercolor landscape sketches of Kauai and the Big Island of Hawaii and also showed many of the Hawaiian people and their activities.

Born in London to an emigrant Swiss sculptor, Webber was sent to study art from 1767-1770 under J.L. Aberli in Bern, Switzerland. After further training in Paris, he returned to London, where one of his paintings in the annual exhibition of the Royal Academy impressed the Swedish botanist Daniel Solander. Solander had accompanied Cook on the captain's two previous voyages of discovery, and his recommendation of the young artist led to Webber's employment as artist for the third expedition. The choice was a good one, as Webber produced an astounding number of high quality images.

After the voyage, he was retained to supervise the production of the engravings that were to illustrate the published journal of the voyage. ('Cook 1784') These images have been widely reproduced in subsequent editions of the journals and in nearly every book on early Alaskan exploration or the search for the Northwest Passage.

Webber was elected to the Royal Academy in 1785. He died of kidney disease in 1793 at the age of 41.

David Forbes, "Encounters With Paradise"

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John Webber is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Notable Alaska
Artists who painted Hawaii

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