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John Webber RA, A View in Otaheipeha Bay in the Island of Otahaite

A View in Otaheipeha Bay in the Island of Otahaite, 1791

John Webber RA (1751 - 1793)

RA Collection: Art

This painting was the last Webber completed from the numerous sketches that he made on Captain Cook's third voyage. During the voyage (July 1786-October 1780), Webber documented the landscape, people and cultures he encountered, notably those of the Pacific islands and Alaska. In this painting, Webber has depicted Vaitepiha Bay in Tahiti, in what is today French Polynesia, adopting a viewpoint which looks towards the Tautira Valley. Captain Cook sailed into Vaitepiha Bay on the 12th August 1777 and remained there until the 24th August. Webber used this same view with only slight variations for plate V of his Views in the South Seas (1808), as well as for other paintings. The oval format is unusual in his work, and it may be that the Royal Academy intimated that they wanted an oval painting to hang over a door in one of their rooms in Somerset House to match an oval painting of similar dimensions given by Francis Wheatley the same year.

Paintings like this were some of first images that the London public would have seen of islands such as Tahiti. Although Webber made many exact studies of costumes and individuals, these were very rarely worked up into exhibition pieces. Instead he concentrated, as with this work, on showing a Arcadian view of an unusual landscape where the human figures are relatively insignificant. The sketches on which this painting is based reveal that the contours of the landscape have been faithfully copied, but much of the foliage has been invented to make a harmonious composition.

Object details

A View in Otaheipeha Bay in the Island of Otahaite
John Webber RA (1751 - 1793)
Object type
Oil on canvas

777 mm x 1048 mm x 20 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Diploma Work given by John Webber RA accepted 1791

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