John Webber, R.A. (1751-1793)

A traveller standing by a waterfall

John Webber, R.A.

A traveller standing by a waterfall

Inscribed u.c.: No 22. august 15. 1788, watercolour over pencil on laid paper

35 x 23 cm; 13.8 x 9.1 inches

Provenance

Sotheby's London, July 14, 1988, lot 87;

Spink, K31430;

Private collection, U.K., bought from the above

The son of a Swiss sculptor, born in London, the artist studied in Bern under J.L. Aberli who developed the picturesque style of topographical painting in Switzerland. After a period at the Académie Royale in Paris, Webber studied at the Royal Academy Schools, London in 1775 and exhibited there the following year, when his work impressed the botanist Dr Daniel Solander who recommended him to the third and last Cook expedition to the South Seas. Cook wrote that Mr Webber was engaged to embark with me for the express purpose of supplying the unavoidable imperfections of written accounts’. He sailed on the Resolution and Webber made drawings of landscapes and everything else of interest throughout the voyage. The expedition visited Tasmania, New Zealand, the South Pacific and the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), and the Icy Cape. Webber witnessed Cook’s death.

On his return to Britain in 1780, a number of his illustrations were engraved.

In 1787 to early 1788 he travelled to Switzerland and Northern Italy. Later in 1788 the artist made a tour of the west of England and the Wye Valley where the present drawing must have been done. He favoured a limited palette of greys and blues, like John Robert Cozens, and his work is characterised by the very fine detail exhibited in the present work, which would have been drawn on the spot and finished in the studio.

Examples of Webber’s work may be found in the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, The Mitchell Library, Sydney and many other museums.