Omai (Mai), Sir Joseph Banks and Daniel Charles Solander

Omai (Mai), Sir Joseph Banks and Daniel Charles Solander, by William Parry, circa 1775-1776 - NPG 6652 - © National Portrait Gallery, London / National Museum Cardiff / Captain Cook Memorial Museum, Whitby

© National Portrait Gallery, London / National Museum Cardiff / Captain Cook Memorial Museum, Whitby

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Omai (Mai), Sir Joseph Banks and Daniel Charles Solander

by William Parry
oil on canvas, circa 1775-1776
60 in. x 60 in. (1525 mm x 1525 mm)
Purchased jointly with the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, Whitby and the National Museums & Galleries of Wales, with help from a private benefactor and local trusts, the Art Fund, the Garfield Weston Foundation, Flora Fraser and Peter Soros, Sir Christopher Ondaatje, Linda L. Brownrigg, Randolph and Lara Lerner, Jon and Lillian Lovelace, the Clore Duffield Foundation, Sir Harry Djanogly, Hans and Mãrit Rausing, Lawrence Banks, the Swan Trust, Amanda Sebestyen, Sir David Attenborough, Lord Plymouth and Lord Windsor and many other donations, 2003
Primary Collection
NPG 6652

Sittersback to top

  • Sir Joseph Banks, Bt (1743-1820), Explorer and botanist. Sitter associated with 35 portraits.
  • Omai (circa 1753-circa 1780), First Tahitian to visit England. Sitter in 5 portraits.
  • Daniel Charles Solander (1736-1782), Botanist. Sitter in 3 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • William Parry (1743-1791), Portrait painter. Artist associated with 4 portraits, Sitter in 2 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Parry’s group portrait presents a realistic likeness of Omai, in a domestic setting, among the people who shaped his experience of Britain - Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander. Solander, Banks’ librarian and Keeper of Natural History at the British Museum, is seated taking notes while Banks, the scientist and entrepreneur, discourses upon Omai.
Parry’s conversation piece format, though grandly conceived, seems to celebrate the eighteenth-century principle of equality and collaboration in the pursuit of knowledge.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Hackforth-Jones, Jos; Bindman, David; Pratt, Stephanie; Ray, Romita, Between Worlds: Voyagers to Britain 1700-1850, 2007 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 8 March to 17 June 2007), p. 52
  • Ingamells, John, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, 2004, p. 28

Events of 1775back to top

Current affairs

Act of Parliament extends inventor James Watt's patent (first granted in 1769) and the first steam engines are built under it.
First known building society - Ketley's Building Society - is established in Birmingham by Richard Ketley, landlord of the Golden Cross Inn.

Art and science

First performance of Richard Brinsley Sheridan's play The Rivals at the Covent Garden Theatre in London.
Artist J.M.W. Turner is born.
Satirist James Gillray's first engravings and etchings are published.
Navigator Captain Cook publishes his discovery of a preventive cure against scurvy, in the form of a regular ration of lemon juice.


War of American Independence begins with British defeat at Lexington and Concord and lasts until 1783. British achieve a narrow and costly victory over the Americans at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Edmund Burke delivers a speech to the British Parliament on conciliation with the American colonies.
First performance of Pierre Beaumarchais' comic opera The Barber of Seville in Paris.
Pope Pius VI succeeds Pope Clement XIV as the 251st pope.

Tell us more back to top

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