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Creator:
Thomas Hearne, 1744–1817, British
Title:

A View on the Island of Antigua: the English Barracks and Saint John's Church Seen from the Hospital

Date:
ca. 1775
Medium:
Watercolor and black ink over graphite on moderately thick, slightly textured, cream laid paper
Dimensions:
Sheet: 20 1/4 x 29 inches (51.4 x 73.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
B1993.30.78
Classification:
Drawings & Watercolors
Collection:
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
barracks | basket | bed | bench | church | clouds | fruit | game | hospital | island | landscape | public buildings | slavery | soldiers | well (structure)
Associated Places:
Antigua | Antigua and Barbuda | Saint Johns | St. John's Cathedral
Access:
Accessible by request in the Study Room [Request]
Note: The Study Room is open to Yale ID holders by appointment. Please visit the Study Room page on our website for more details.
Link:
https://collections.britishart.yale.edu/catalog/tms:4168
Export:
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In 1771 Thomas Hearne, just out of his apprenticeship to an engraver, began working for Sir Ralph Payne, the recently appointed governor-general of the Leewards, a group of sugar colonies consisting of Antigua, Nevis, St. Christopher’s (now St. Kitts), and Montserrat. Hearne spent three and a half years making working drawings and, after his return to England in 1775, produced twenty large and highly finished watercolors for Payne, of which only eight are now known. This watercolor depicts St. John’s at Antigua, the traditional center of government for the Leewards, where Payne had taken up residence. After a major slave insurrection in Antigua in 1736, the colonial government had petitioned successfully to have a regiment stationed there, but the white West Indians living on the island remained in constant fear both of another slave revolt and of a French attack from nearby Guadeloupe and Martinique. The Center’s watercolor shows the newly built barracks and hospital and the renovated courthouse, as well as members of the 60th Royal American Regiment at exercise, reinforcing the message that Antigua was a well-governed and orderly colonial possession.

Gallery label for An American's Passion for British Art - Paul Mellon's Legacy (Yale Center for British Art, 2007-04-18 - 2007-07-29)
In 1771 Hearne began working for Sir Ralph Payne, the recently appointed Governor-General of the Leeward Islands, a group of sugar colonies consisting of Antigua, Nevis, St. Christopher's (now St. Kitts), and Montserrat. Hearne spent three and a half years making working drawings and, after his return to England in 1775, produced twenty large and highly finished watercolors for Payne, of which only eight are now known. This watercolor depicts St. John's at Antigua, the traditional center of government for the Leewards, where Payne had taken up residence, despite owning a large sugar estate on St. Christopher's. After a major slave insurrection in Antigua in 1736, the colonial government had petitioned successfully to have a regiment stationed there, but the white West Indians living on the island remained in constant fear both of another slave revolt and of a French attack from nearby Guadeloupe and Martinique.

One of Hearne's watercolors is a vivid depiction of a hurricane that devastated Antigua on the night of 30 August 1772. The Center's watercolor shows the newly rebuilt barracks and hospital and the renovated courthouse, as well as members of the 60th Royal American Regiment at exercise. The drawing functions as a pendant to Hearne's image of the hurricane; if the violence of the storm is read as metaphor for insurrection and political instability, then Hearne's panoptic view reinforces the message that Antigua was a well-governed and orderly colonial possession. Eliding the conventions of the military survey and the picturesque landscape, Hearne meticulously delineates the pristine and substantial government buildings, placing the spire of St. John's church strategically at the center of the composition. He also includes discreet allusions to the sugar industry, showing, on the right, cane fields devoid of laborers, and behind, a sugar factory with a smoking chimney. Completing Hearne's account of the social hierarchy, and drawing on the stereotype of the indolent slave, is the group in the foreground, consisting of a free soldier probably of mixed race, two slave children playing in a barrel, two men playing a game of chance, who appear from their dress to be domestic slaves, and a field slave, flanked by a cornucopia of fruit.

Gillian Forrester

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's Legacy: a Passion for British art: Masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)



In 1771 Thomas Hearne, fresh from an apprenticeship with the engraver William Woollett, became the official draftsman for Sir Raply Payne. Payne was taking up an appointment as Captain-General and Govenor-in-Chief of the Leeward Islands - an important post, given the role of the sugar-producing slavery economy of the Leewards in Britain's commercial empire. Hearne spent three and a half years in the Islands, documenting the life and landscape. After his return to England with Payne in 1775, he produced for Payne a set of twenty large watercolors based on the drawings he had made in the Leewards. This view of Antigua is one of only a handful of these watercolors that are now known. It records the appearance of the new military barracks constructed during Payne's governorship> Against a backdrop of contemporary fears of a slave insurrection as well as mounting anti-slavery sentiment, the barracks in Hearne's grand watercolor functions as an emblem of British military authority and of the security and stability of Payne's tenure. To the same end, the inclusion of a group of black slaves gambling in the left foreground suggest they are a contented, if feckless, lot.

Scott Wilcox

Wilcox, Forrester, O'Neil, Sloan. The Line of Beauty: British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century. Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2001. pg. 29 cat. no. 14

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's Legacy: a Passion for British Art: Masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, p. 265, no. 51, pl. 51, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

John Crowley, Imperial landscapes, Britains's global visual culture 1745-1820 , Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2011, pp. 116-18, fig. 139, N8214.5 G7 C76 2011 + (YCBA)

David Morris, Thomas Hearne and His Landscape, Reaktion Books, London, 1989, pp. 9-13, NJ18 H3545 M68 1989 (LC)

David Morris, Thomas Hearne, 1744-1817: Watercolours and Drawings, Bolton Museum and Art Gallery, Bolton, Great Britain, 1985, pp. 24, 37, NJ18 H3545 M67 (LC)

Scott Wilcox, Line of beauty : British drawings and watercolors of the eighteenth century, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2001, p. 95, no. 77, NC228 W53 2001 (YCBA)


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