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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
Accession Number B1993.30.78
Collection Prints and Drawings
Curatorial Comment 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, 2007-01
Link to This Record
Subject Terms architectural subject | barracks | basket | bed | bench | cacti | church | clouds | fruit | furniture | game | hospital | island | landscape | public buildings | sky | slaves | soldiers | well (structure)
Place Represented Antigua | Antigua and Barbuda | Saint Johns | St. John's Cathedral

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)

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)

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

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

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