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William Parry, the Welsh artist, painted this shortly after the completion of Cook’s second Voyage of exploration. Omai, a native of Tahiti, had come to England in Cook’s sister ship 'Adventure', the first Pacific islander to do so. Sir Joseph Banks quickly took charge of Omai and introduced him in London society. Banks and Dr Daniel Solander, the Swedish botanist, had accompanied Cook on his first Voyage.
Omai’s costume is studio based, and entirely imaginary. Banks brought Omai to the North of England, where they went to the races at York, bathed at Scarborough (where Omai’s tattoos aroused great admiration), and visited Whitby. Omai was later returned to his home island as part of Cook’s third and final voyage of exploration.
When not on display in Whitby, the painting is shown by our co-owners, the National Portrait Gallery, London, and the National Museums & Galleries of Wales, Cardiff.
Omai (c.1753–c.1776/1777), Sir Joseph Banks (1743–1820), and Dr Daniel Solander (1736–1782)
oil on canvas
H 150 x W 150 cm
purchased jointly with the National Museum and Gallery, Cardiff and the National Portrait Gallery, London, with the generous help of a private benefactor, the Normanby Trust, the National Art Collections Fund, the Garfield Weston Foundation, Flora Frazer and Peter Soros, Sir Christopher Ondaatje, Linda L. Brownrigg, Randolph and Lara Lerner, Jon and Lillian Lovelace, the Clore Foundation, Sir Henry Djanogly, Hans and Märit Rausing, Lawrence Banks, the Swan Trust, Amanda Sebestyen, Sir David Attenborough, Lord Plymouth, Lord Windsor and many other donations, 2003