Portrait of Sir Joseph Banks (1771)
This important portrait of Banks was started in 1771 shortly after the triumphant return of Captain Cook’s ‘Endeavour’ expedition from the South Seas, in which Banks played such a notable part.
Purchased by the Trustees of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Lincolnshire County Council, National Art Collections Fund, Heslam Trust, Pilgrim Trust, Lincolnshire Museums Capital Purchase Fund, JR Halkes Trust, Esmee Fairbairn Trust, JE Sandars Charitable Trust, Friends of Lincoln Museums and Art Gallery, Dean and Chapter Lincoln Cathedral, North Kesteven District Council, Limes Development Ltd, East Lindsey District Council, British Telecom, Grimsthorpe and Drummond Castle Trust, Horncastle Town Council, West Lindsey District Council and many other organisations and Individuals, 1989 UG 89/9.
This important portrait of Banks was started in 1771 shortly after the triumphant return of Captain Cook’s ‘Endeavour’ expedition from the South Seas, in which Banks played such a notable part. Unable to accompany Cook on his later voyages, Bank’s achievements earned him great acclaim and in 1778 he became president of the Royal Society. Above all Banks is usually credited as being the founder of Australia and from 1788 when Captain Phillips reached Botany Bay, as Australia’s first governor, Banks was the figure to whom successive governments wrote to for support and advice and whose he took up with successive governments.
Commissioned by the sitter’s uncle, it shows Banks in heroic pose (in contrast to Reynolds’ more conventional portrait of 1773) wearing a cloak of New Zealand flax surrounded by the treasures from the expedition. At his feet lies a copy of Parkinson’s drawing from Cook’s first voyage, which is now housed in the British Museum.
About the Artist
Benjamin West (1738-1820)
Benjamin West was born in Springfield, Pennsylvania, studied in Philadelphia and in New York until after a visit to Italy in 1760 he settled in England in 1763. He is particularly noted as a painter of religious and historical subjects. George III became a Patron and in 1792 he became a founder member of the Royal Academy. In the same year he succeeded Joshua Reynolds as its President.