Buying John Webber paintings – Highest Prices Paid:  Artist Bio & images follow:

JOHN WEBBER (Swiss/British, 1752-1793).

John Webber, the first European artist to depict Hawaii and its natives, was born in London in 1752. He was the second child of Mary and Abraham Webber, a Swiss born sculptor who had anglicised his name from Waber after moving to London.

At age six, John went to live with relatives of his father in Bern, Switzerland. At age sixteen he was apprenticed to Johann Aberli, a leading Swiss landscape artist. After spending three years with Aberli, he then trained at the Académie Royale in Paris where he mastered oil paints and executed landscape studies.

On June 24, 1776 Webber was appointed the expedition artist for what would be Captain James Cook’s third voyage. Webber had been recommended for the voyage by Dr. Daniel Solander, a Swedish naturalist who had sailed with Cook on his first voyage. Cook’s third voyage, in the ships Resolution and Discovery, was meant to not only explore the coasts along the north Pacific Ocean, but also to possibly locate a Northwest passage.

During the voyage Cook’s crew made the first European contacts with Hawaiian and British Columbian native peoples. Contact was also made with natives of Alaska and Kamchatka.

In Hawaii, Webber frequently accompanied Cook on shore, where he made quick graphite sketches. Back on the ship, he then completed more polished watercolor paintings. The images he made in Hawaii include portraits of native Hawaiians and the reception of Cook as the incarnation of the God Lono.

Upon his return voyage, Webber was expected to reduce his drawings and paintings to scale for engravers. The Admiralty also hired him as art director for the 1784 publication, for which he supervised the engravers and printers.The many engravings made after Webber’s works — including twelve images of Hawaii — were then published in a three volume set that was a commercial success.

On his return to London Webber exhibited paintings and drawings inspired by his Voyage with Cook at London’s Royal Academy which he became a member of in 1791. Webber, a lifelong bachelor, also travelled in Europe and painted landscapes and portraits until his death on April 29th, 1793 at the age of forty-one.

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