BETWEEN WORLDS: VOYAGERS TO BRITAIN 1700-1850
8 March -17 June 2007
The first exhibition to look at the experience and impact of some of the famous travellers to Britain from North America, the South Pacific, Asia and Africa - devised by an international team of curators
A fascinating exhibition telling the stories of travellers to Britain who caused widespread excitement, interest and curiosity in London's social circles, opens at the National Portrait Gallery on 8 March. Between Worlds: Voyagers to Britain 1700-1850 is the first exhibition to focus on the complexities and ambiguities of encounters between non-European visitors and their British contemporaries. As well as its art-historical importance, Between Worlds has many contemporary cultural resonances.
The visitors, who came from places with which Britain had a colonial relationship including North America, the South Pacific, India and Africa, each had different reasons for making their journeys and received markedly varied receptions on arrival. The experiences - and the impact on British society - of travellers such as the 'Four Indian Kings' of North America, Mai of the South Pacific, Raja Rammohun Roy of India and Africa's Sara Baartman are brought vividly to life through paintings, objects, drawings and documents.
One of the major international loans will be the commissioned portraits of the 'Four Indian Kings' who came to England to offer their assistance to the British government against the French in the battle for North America in 1710. Amongst the best documented and most romanticised visitors featured in the exhibition is William Sessarakoo, a wealthy prince from a West African slave-trading family.
The exhibition will show how some of the most celebrated travellers to Britain of this period - the Tahitian Omai, through his visit to London in 1774, and Joseph Brant, probably the most influential American Indian leader in Britain during the American Revolutionary War, assumed roles as spokespersons for their people by their manipulation and management of the British. Raja Rammohun Roy, the eminent linguist, businessman, and social reformer often recognised as the "father of modern India" visited as an emissary of the Mughal emperor Akbar Shah II.
In contrast, it documents how two Aboriginal visitors, Bennelong and Yemmerrawanne, accompanying Governor Phillip (the first Governor of New South Wales) back to London in 1792, were not taken up by London 'society' in the same way, perhaps reflecting a hardening of attitudes by the 1790s. The history of European oppression and mistreatment of indigenous peoples is evident in the narrative and visual representation of Sara Baartman, a member of the Khoisan, South Africa's indigenous first people, called 'Hottentots' by European settlers.
South Asian visitors arrived in Britain from diverse socio-economic and religious backgrounds and there will be sections devoted to Sake Dean Mahomed, "Shampooing Surgeon" to the Prince of Wales, Raja Rammohun Roy, the famous Hindu advocate of Unitarianism, and Maharaja Dalip Singh, the tragic Sikh prince. The exhibition will include Winterhalter's famous portrait of the young prince painted in 1854 showing him in full court dress.
Between Worlds is curated by Professor Jos Hackforth-Jones, Provost at Richmond, The American International University, London, with Professor David Bindman, Durning-Lawrence Professor of the History of Art Emeritus, University College, London, Dr Stephanie Pratt, Principal Lecturer in Art History at University of Plymouth, UK and Dr Romita Ray, Assistant Professor of Art History at Syracuse University, USA.
A fully illustrated exhibition catalogue with a foreword by Ekow Eshun (Artistic Director, ICA) includes essays by Professor Jos Hackforth-Jones, Professor David Bindman, Dr Stephanie Pratt and Dr Romita Ray. Published by the National Portrait Gallery, £15 paperback.
For further press information please contact: Neil Evans, Press Officer, National Portrait Gallery, Tel 020 7312 2452 (not for publication) Email email@example.com
NOTES TO EDITORS ON FEATURED TRAVELLERS
Michael Alphonsus Shen Fu-Tsung , 'The Chinese Convert' is represented with a portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller, lent by HM The Queen. The child of Chinese Christian parents, he travelled to Europe in 1681 and in England he became well known in court circles and helped to catalogue the Chinese manuscripts in the Bodleian library.
Four Indian Kings of Canada . One of the Mohawk/Mahican Indian war leaders, Theyanoguin, (Tee Yee Neen Ho Ga Row) would later fight and die beside British troops in the battle for Lake George, (Upstate New York) in 1755.
William Sessarakoo . In the course of visiting Europe he was trapped into slavery himself and on his release in 1748 he arrived in London as a celebrity, already acclaimed in poetry and public imagination.
Mai travelled to London with Captain James Cook and was the object of fascination and curiosity as an exotic spectacle in society drawing rooms. Portraits by William Hodges and William Parry are included.
Joseph Brant visited England, in 1776 and again in 1786, to signal his allegiance to the British and to argue for protection, land sessions and patriation to Canada after the War concluded. Romney's 1776 painting, shown in the exhibition, is arguably the finest of several portraits commissioned of him.
Bennelong and Yemmerrawanne are represented in print and watercolour. Bennelong was captured in 1789 by Governor Phillip with the stated intention of learning more about Aboriginal customs and language.
Raja Rammohun Roy arrived in England in 1831 to represent the Mughal Emperor Akbar Shah II. He was already famous in India for campaigning against sati, the immolation of a widow on her husband's pyre, and for critiquing Hindu rituals and texts as well as Christian gospels.
Sake Dean Mahomed , an East India company officer, arrived in Cork c. 1785 with his Irish patron, Godfrey Evan Barker. By 1809 he had established London's first Indian restaurant and in 1814 he set up a bathhouse in Brighton where he was appointed 'Shampooing Surgeon' to George IV and William IV.
Maharaja Dalip Singh . The youngest son of Ranjit Singh, he was forced to resign his position by the British Raj and surrender the Koh-i-noor diamond to Queen Victoria. The jewels he retain ed have become signifiers of a lost power.
Sara Baartman was born in 1789 in the Eastern Cape and migrated in her late teens to Cape Town. She was exhibited in London from 1810-14 (before being taken to Paris) and was the subject of images and caricatures on both sides of the Channel.