Captain James Cook

'Son of the Land, Master of the Sea' (©)

A series of marine paintings by Robin Brooks

  How the series began, Whitby, historical research, Greenwich, models, and an inspiring film.

Skip images and go to How it all began - Captain Alistair Letty or navigation.

Portrait of Captain James Cook
Captain Cook
Detail from portrait by N. Dance. NMM.
"In every situation, he stood unrivalled and alone, on him all eyes were turned; He was our leading star, which at its setting, left us in darkness and despair"
David Samwell, Surgeon's mate on the Resolution
Click to view 'The Gale Abating', marine painting by Robin Brooks Click to view 'As for Resolution', marine painting by Robin Brooks Click to view 'We directed our course into the Channel', by Robin Brooks
Click to view 'We stretched to the southward', by Robin Brooks Click to view 'The Forbidding Coast / Lost in the Clouds', by Robin Brooks Click to view 'Triumph of the Navigators', by Robin Brooks
Click to view 'First Sentinels', marine painting by Robin Brooks Click to view 'Fetched Furneaux for breakfast', by Robin Brooks Click to view 'Farewell Old England', marine painting by Robin Brooks
Click to view 'Much More Precious then Gold', by Robin Brooks Click to view 'We stood along the edge', by Robin Brooks Click to view 'The birds were our only companions', by Robin Brooks

How it all began

In 1982, Captain Alistair Letty commissioned two paintings from Cook's voyages of 1772-75, the subject, Resolution and Adventure in Antarctic waters. Captain Letty had spent some time in Pacific waters himself and had developed a passionate interest in the life of Captain James Cook and the three expeditions exploring the Pacific between 1768 and 1780.

Read a description of Captain Cook's First Voyage, from the new Captain Cook Encyclopaedia

Captain Cook - The Second Voyage

Painting of Resolution passing an iceberg in the Antarctic Resolution passing a large iceberg
Oil on canvas 12" x 24"
(30.5cm x 61cm)
Painting of Captain Cook's tall ships collecting ice for fresh water in the Antarctic Collecting ice for fresh water
Oil on canvas 12" x 24"
(30.5cm x 61cm)

Inspired by Captain Letty's knowledge and infectious enthusiasm, the artist considered the possibilities of further paintings and with such a rich wealth of subject matter, it was important to concentrate on one theme. He developed the idea of celebrating Captain Cook's achievements by focusing on the second voyage in a series of paintings, which would cover significant or interesting incidents. Leaving Plymouth on 13th July 1772, the series, in chronological order, would follow the Resolution and Adventure, both in company and after their separation, until their eventual return in 1774 and 1775 respectively.

An intensive period of research was necessary, studying all extant material, Captain Cook's Journals, the logs of the Resolution and Adventure, the Journals and Logs of the ships' Officers and men and also the newly published (1982) Journals of Johann Reinhold Forster. In all, some forty seven incidents were finally selected as possible subject matter.

Model of the Resolution, one of Captain Cook's tall ships The artist studying Bob Lightley's magnificent model of the Resolution at the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, Whitby, Yorkshire. 1988. Photo of Robin studying Hodges' painting of Resolution and Adventure at the National Maritime Museum Robin was allowed special access to study William Hodges' famous painting of 'Resolution and Adventure, Matavai Bay, Tahiti' at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, 1987. Robin's son Rupert, aged 10, in assistance.

'Captain James Cook, Son of the land, Master of the sea'(©)

The inspired title for this ambitious project sought to honour Captain Cook's achievements as he rose from the son of a farm labourer to be one of the greatest masters of navigation and seamanship of his age, or indeed, any age.

One of the most important parts of the project was to accurately reconstruct the appearance of the Resolution and Adventure, so that they could play their starring roles in the paintings. The resulting two models used in the series of paintings offer to serious researchers a unique reference source. These two models are of special note, particularly the Adventure, which is a unique piece of research and a world first, as it is believed that no other reconstruction of this ship has ever been made.

Fishburn's Shipyard, Whitby

The Marquis of Granby, 462 tons and the Marquis of Rockingham, 340 tons, were both built at Fishburn's Yard, Whitby. The two ships were purchased by the Admiralty and classed as sloops-of-war. On 28th November 1771, they were commissioned under the names of Drake and Raleigh. The Drake was to carry 110 men, under the command of Captain Cook and the Raleigh, 80 men under Captain Tobias Furneaux. Later, it was deemed prudent to change the names again, so not to offend the Spanish, and thus the names Resolution and Adventure were settled upon.

Models of Captain Cook's 'Resolution' & 'Adventure'

The two models were built between 1987-88, using the original Admiralty Drafts, the Resolution Ref. 3254 box 166, 3435, and the Adventure Ref. 4096 box 6, 13962. Many eminent authorities were consulted all over the world when researching every detail of the models. The Resolution model was heavily influenced by the work already undertaken by the South African, Bob Lightly, whose magnificent model is at the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, Whitby.

The pictorial and written eye witness accounts of the ships' appearance and workings were closely studied in the creation of both models. The models were fitted with ball joints, which allowed them to pitch and roll and they then fitted into a large Antarctic stage set, which was infinitely adaptable. The ships were painted to look weathered, and in the Studio they had masts and sails to accommodate every occasion described in the logs and journals.

An Inspiring Film - Captain James Cook

Based on a screen play by Peter Yeldham for Revcom/ABS

Portrait of Captain James Cook
Portrait of Captain Cook by Nathaniel Dance, courstesy of the National Maritime Museum.
Portrait of Captain James Cook
Keith Michell, sitting for his portrait for the artist Nathaniel Dance in the film.
Keith Michell starred as Captain James Cook in a fabulous 8 hour long film, screened on ITV in the UK over four episodes in 1988. At about that time, Keith Michell, on hearing of Robin's series of paintings, wrote to Robin -
"I trust your series of paintings on incidents from Captain Cook's second voyage continues well. I wish you well, they will be a great tribute. I enclose a photograph of Cook, to keep an eye on you and wish you well with your series of paintings"

Next - Captain Cook's
First Voyage 1768 - 1771

Two paintings from the first voyage plus HM Bark Endeavour Replica.

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