The National Maritime Museum recently acquired a painting by Sir Robert Smirke depicting The Cessation of the District of Matavai in the Island of Otaheite [Tahiti] to Captain James Wilson (1798). This large and potentially striking, group portrait was commissioned in 1798 by the Directors of the London Missionary Society to commemorate the granting of land to Captain James Wilson to build a mission station in Tahiti. The most influential persons in the nation were present and have been identified including ‘The two figures on men’s shoulders ... who are the late king and queen’. Sir Robert Smirke (1752-1845) was an English artist and Academician whose work was often small format and monochrome. This painting illustrates his ability to capture a likeness and a significant moment in history.
Cleaning and conservation are ongoing in preparation for display in the Museum’s new Pacific gallery, scheduled for opening summer 2018.