John White (colonist and artist)

195

John White (colonist and artist) : biography

c. 1540 – c. 1593

Legacy

White is chiefly remembered today for his watercolors, which represent a unique record of 16th-century Algonkin society. All of White’s surviving works are now in the print room of the British Museum.

In 2007, the British Museum placed the entire group of John White’s watercolors on public display under the collection, "A New World: England’s First View of America". There are more than seventy watercolors in the travelling collection. The collection will be shown at the North Carolina Museum of History.

The author Kim Sloan ("A New World: England’s First View of America", University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill (2007)) has done an analysis of the so-called White watercolors, carefully documenting their provenance. This has been made necessary as the degree to which White is actually responsible for these documentary records of the New World is not certain.

Early efforts at colonization

In the late sixteenth century efforts to establish an English colony in the New World began to gain momentum, and White soon became an enthusiastic supporter. In 1585 White accompanied the expedition led by Sir Ralph Lane to attempt to found the first English colony in North America. White was sent by Sir Walter Raleigh as Sir Richard Grenville’s artist-illustrator on his first voyage to the New World; he served as mapmaker and artist to the expedition, which encountered considerable difficulties and returned to England in 1586 .

Gentleman artist

In 1585 White had been commissioned to "draw to life" the inhabitants of the New World and their surroundings. Retrieved March 2011 During White’s time at Roanoke Island, he completed numerous watercolor drawings of the surrounding landscape and native peoples. These works are significant as they are the most informative illustrations of a Native American society of the Eastern seaboard, and predate the first body of "discovery voyage art" created in the late 18th century by the artists who sailed with Captain James Cook. They represent the sole surviving visual record of the native inhabitants of America, encountered by England’s first settlers.

White’s enthusiasm for watercolor was unusual – most contemporary painters preferred to use oil-based paints.Milton, p.199 White’s watercolors would soon become a sensation in Europe and it was not long before the watercolors were engraved by the Flemish master engraver Theodore de Bry,Milton, p.200 and through the medium of print, became widely known and distributed; published in 1590 under the title America.

Gallery

File:North carolina algonkin-dorf.jpg|watercolour painted by John White File:North carolina algonkin-essen.jpg|Engraving by Theodor de Bry after a watercolour painted by John White File:North carolina algonkin-essen01.jpg|Clay pot of North Carolina Algonquins used for boiling. File:North carolina algonkin-essen02.jpg|Equipment for curing fish used by the North Carolina Algonquins. File:North carolina algonkin-kleidung01.jpg|Woman of the Secotan-Indians in North Carolina. Watercolour painted by John White in 1585. File:North carolina algonkin-kleidung02.jpg|Man of the Secotan Indians in North Carolina. Watercolour painted by John White in 1585. File:North carolina algonkin-kleidung03.jpg|Mother and child of the Secotan Indians in North Carolina. Watercolour painted by John White in 1585. File:North carolina algonkin-kleidung04.jpg|Mother and child of the Secotan Indians in North Carolina. Watercolour painted by John White in 1585. File:North carolina algonkin-kleidung08.jpg|Warrior of the Secotan Indians in North Carolina. Watercolour painted by John White in 1585. File:North carolina algonkin-rituale01.jpg|Ceremony of Secotan warriors in North Carolina. Watercolour painted by John White in 1585. File:North carolina algonkin-fischen.jpg|Engraving by Theodor de Bry after a watercolour painted by John White File:An old man in his winter clothes (1590).jpg|An aged Native man from Pomeiock, full-length portrait, facing front, wearing winter garment; landscape scene with village in the background.