Omai(circa 1753-circa 1780), First Tahitian to visit England
Sitter in 5 portraits
In 1774, Omai became the first Polynesian to visit Britain when he returned with Captain Cook from his second voyage of the South Pacific. He lived in London with scientist and socialite Joseph Banks, who had met Omai in Tahiti and was interested in observing how a 'native' responded to European society. Throughout his stay Omai was feted by nobility, entertained by scientists and introduced to celebrities. His charm, good humour and sense of etiquette were demonstrated at his audience with George III and he was quickly discovered to be a sophisticated man with a complex culture of his own. He returned to Tahiti with Cook in 1776 but had a lasting impact on the popular culture of eighteenth-century Britain.
by William Parry
oil on canvas, circa 1775-1776