Department of Art History

The Art of Travel and Exploration

The Art of Travel and Exploration – Professor Geoff Quilley

The origins for this project go back to a conference, The Art of Exploration, held at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich in 2004. The themes and issues aired there have now been refined into a set of six essays for a special issue of the Journal of Historical Geography on ‘The art of travel and exploration’, edited by Geoff Quilley, and due for publication in January 2014. The essays, by John Bonehill, Michael Godby, Leonard Bell, Natasha Eaton, Marcus Wood and Geoff Quilley, are available online at:

Taking the art of Captain Cook’s voyages as a reference point, the collection argues that the centrality of Cook in the historiography of exploration and its attendant visual culture has tended to eclipse other important visual records and archives, which the essays here are instead concerned to address. They are, therefore, post-Cook, focusing on the period from the 1770s to the 1840s, to offer a variety of interpretative strategies, and treating of subject matter relating to a series of distinct global places and cultures. This works as a means both of demonstrating the significance of diverse forms of visual culture connected with travel and geographical exploration, and also of elaborating the interconnectedness between art history and historical geography through travel imagery. They address in distinct, individual ways four key critical areas which mark out travel imagery from other forms of visual culture, which can be defined broadly as:  issues of time, place and circumstances of production; practices of observation and recording; the imperial context; the influence of Cook.

While the essays as a collection, therefore, cover a broad geographical – indeed, global – span, ranging from Iceland to Tierra del Fuego, they each are based on a case study that explores the wide range of issues raised through an interdisciplinary approach to the visual culture of travel; principal among which is the way visual representation interleaves with discourses on the nature of human society, social progress or decline, customs and manners, or geopolitics, as filtered through the representation of topography, climatology, ethnography and environment.

 shipley papeite bay with aimeo

[image: Conway Shipley, French Bakery and Government Store House Tahiti, with Eimeo in the Distance, lithograph, from Sketches in the Pacific (London: T. McLean, 1851), plate 10, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection]