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John Webber was an English artist most famous for the drawings he created while accompanying the explorer Captain James Cook on his third and final voyage. Webber studied fine arts in Switzerland and Paris. Returning to England in 1775, he came to the attention of the English naturalist Sir Joseph Banks, who appears to have introduced him to Captain James Cook. Cook subsequently hired Webber to accompany him aboard the HMS Resolution as a topographical artist, supplying drawings to supplement the official written account of the journey.
In July 1776, the expedition departed England and sailed for the Pacific. After visiting Australia, the Hawaiian Island (which Cook named the Sandwich Islands), and a number of other South Sea islands, Cook’s ships reached the coast of North America, which they charted while attempting to discover the Northwest Passage. In the spring of 1778, the expedition spent a month retrofitting their vessels at Nootka Sound, where Webber was active sketching landscapes and the indigenous peoples they encountered. Having charted the remainder of the North American coastline to the Bering Strait, the expedition returned in February 1779 to Hawaii, where Cook was killed following a dispute with the Hawaiians.
As an artist aboard the HMS Resolution, Webber created some 200 sketches during the four-year voyage. Upon the expedition’s return to England in 1780, Webber was commissioned to supervise the engraving of 61 of these drawings for publication in official journals, a task that took him until 1785. Between 1784 and 1792, Webber exhibited 50 works at the Royal Academy of Arts in London and was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1785, and a Royal Academician in 1791.