Pitcairn Islands Study Center: Bounty Paintings Volume 2 

These paintings are available as miniatures, or larger sizes exclusively, on-line, and
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Bounty Searches for a Home (5a) 
Sliding away over the top of a distant sea the mutineers began the long search for anonymity and a distant paradise. The darkness of the close up waves and the strange reflecting light indicates the vessel could well spend eternity sailing  in circles - a thought widely held in Europe where to abandon duty was to abandon hope. Again the blackness of the rigging is not encouraging.

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Bounty set alight Pitcairn(5b)  
An attempt at the difficult fire, moon and water juxtaposition that was a popular test of skill for painters during the late eighteenth century. Pitcairn’s distinctive outline is silhouetted on the horizon. For the painting’s structure the fire takes the soot and embers aloft before their gravity force them down thus forming the arc I use to tie together the major elements of the picture. The spectators are, as usual with fire watches, undemonstrative and hypnotised by the flames.
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Captain Folger arrives Pitcairn(5c)  
Folger was the American who discovered the mutineer’s hideaway on Pitcairn. The illustration describes this meeting and shows Folger in his American captain’s coat leaning out from the gunwales of his ship, the sealer/whaler Topaz.
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Christian's demise(5d)  
In an unusual portrayal  every device is employed to accentuate the violence of Christian’s death - and  a very unsettling vision. Strong images of good and evil are presented with no clear winner. Is Christian’s soul destined for heaven or hell? Is he a villain or a folk hero?  Moorish decoration is used to suggest of an infidel’s grip on his soul. Angels tentatively descend from a star struck sky - a contradiction in the Islamic religion that excludes any depiction of the human form. But it is all only a legend flirting with reality - and as you see his body you also see blood. What is described in paint is an execution rather than a murder and   the executioners have since moved on seeking their next victim.
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Tom Ellison(6a)  
This portrait is of a crewman of the 'Bounty'. As opposed to Peter Heywood he was not born to wealth or position. The Bounty was his first long ocean voyage and while at sea his mother died leaving him without any means or influence.
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HMS. ’Pandora’ breaking up(6b)  
Today the wreck lies scattered about Endeavour Straits (now known as Torres Straits) - as Bligh at the time predicted it would. As a sailor Edwards was not in the class of Cook or Bligh, a failing he attempted to redress by flogging. Eventually not even this would save him and this picture shows Pandora sinking after being holed by one of the hundreds reefs dotting this narrow passage. Edwards was not one to go down with his ship but one of the first to save himself. His boat, with sail hoisted, can be seen disappearing towards the horizon. Over twenty souls perished in the wreck with some of the mutineers being dragged down by their chains. This panel shows the scene at sunrise after a night of fearful terror. The stern of Pandora with its shattered windows stares, like the face of some doomed creature, over a scene of panic and urgency that it is powerless to prevent. It is metamorphosing to become the tomb for those many still trapped inside. In ancient parlance this is a ‘closed’ picture as it tries to force the viewer into the scene by employing a tunnel like structure where the eye is forced to restlessly roam. There is little opportunity of escape.

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Bounty prepares to depart Tahitie(6c)  
Another canvas using the low classical foreground and symbolic sky where the figures feature as players in an imagined event - this event being the impending departure of Bounty.There is an atmosphere of sadness as an earnest Bligh explains to Chief Tynah his orders and his duty. They are the dominant elements of the scene. The water looks as languid and inviting as would a warm bath to an Eskimo ... the islanders take their daily swim while a necklace of coconut palms separates the lagoon and the sky. Goethe in his ‘theory of colour’ describes yellow as the predominant colour of the middle distance - a notion borrowed here.
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Bounty Aground, Tahitie(B1) 
Late afternoon and Bounty is aground. She sits high on sand while the ship’s boats gather the anchors and row them to deeper water in a frantic effort to re-float her. There is no other transport home! As the sun sets so does Bounty settle - in the sand. Later Bligh suggests incompetence ... or even sabotage. The painting is as soft as the consequences are brutal. Turner once exclaimed when criticised for the use of black, ‘if I had blacker paint I would paint blacker sails - as black is the colour of death.’

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Prisoners return(7a)  
As today’s arrival of the star at a movie premiere would draw crowds so in 1792 did the return of the mutineers. But then they were booed - for their crime was as much against the people as it was against the Navy. Whereas they robbed the navy of but a single ship ... they robbed the people of a dream, a dream of an attainable, contaminated paradise.
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Portsmouth Harbour 1792(7b) 
Home of the Channel Fleet under the command of the Earl of Bridport (Lord Hood). His flagship HMS Duke with the single topmast is the large first rate on the left while HMS Brunswick the vessel designated to host the executions is anchored off her starboard bow. It is the dawn of the day of the executions... In Dickensian terms ‘It came coldly looking like a dead face out of the sky, the moon and the stars, turning pale and dying as if creation’s only purpose was its journey into death’s dominion.’
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Execution of mutineers (7c) 
In 1792 Naval executions were conducted by way of strangulation where the victims were hoisted from the deck on tackle attached to the ends of the yards. The ropes were pulled by their shipmates. In the case of the Bounty mutineers  the prisoners are summoned up. As they emerge from the darkness below they look around, blinking, startled at the size of the crowd, which in turn, roars and shouts to each other then strain around corners, over heads, under awnings, to get a sight of the condemned. People in boats lay their hands on the shoulders of the people before then, fathers lift children and loved ones to a view, they stand on tiptoe, get upon gunwales, stand upon next to nothing, to see every inch of those condemned.’

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Behind the Wave (7d) 
The ghost of the Bounty lurks behind every wave. Here in the peak of a wave off the Amazon delta if we look hard enough we can just make her out. ‘So it was with Christian's fate for within nine years of the discovery of Pitcairn, three different stories were recorded relating to his death; (1) he had become insane and jumped into the sea, (2) he had been murdered by the native men, and (3) he had died a natural death. There were also three accounts of his being seen elsewhere, (1) in the English Lake District, (2) in Plymouth, and (3) in South America...’

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SOME EXTRA BOUNTY PAINTINGS ALSO BY JOHN HAGAN


Sulphur and Saltpeter(E2) 
This work is a rendition of the mayhem, smoke and danger experienced in the countless naval engagements in the years between 1600 and 1790. In particular it describes a critical passage during the four day battle of 1666 between the Dutch and the English. In the foreground is the Royal Prince about to run aground on the Galloper Sand; off her stern and to port is Cornelis Tromp in Sweers’ ship the Gouda. The Royal Prince surrenders shortly afterwards (this painting is in a private collection).
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Breath of Heaven (E1) 
‘Without atmosphere a painting is nothing.’(Rembrant) Another symbolic representation of their transition from one world to another - ‘Mates, I draw closer to the end and I find my life travels in a circle and gets nearer to the beginning.’(early echoes of T.S.Elliot?) So spoke one of the mutineers before he was hung. Here we accompany Thomas Ellison again and see a way through the ruins of the past to an unknown future and are invited to enter - a common preoccupation now as it was in 1792.

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Bligh is cast adrift(E3) 
When men play out their violence on a calm green tropical sea spotted with island paradises the fierceness of their behaviour is amplified-over a similar occurrence in, say, the freezing north Atlantic. In the stillness (green being the colour of peace and clam) began a chain of events that would culminate in death - by illness in Batavia, by drowning on the Pandora, hangings at Portsmouth - and a bloody massacre on Pitcairn. Over 40 people would die as a result.
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Adventure Bay (E4) 
Adventure Bay Tasmania - oil on canvas (29" by 38")  Bright and sparkling colour relief is my tone for this high-key work. After a long, cold and dark run along the roaring forties the crisp security of a sheltered bay in southern Tasmania beckons. The pale fresco like colours contrast dramatically with the menacing dark forms of the transient sailors.
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Adventure Bay (E5) 
Adventure Bay Tasmania - oil on canvas (29" by 38")  A self-confident and self-assured Bligh steps ashore in a landscape with a European feel. That was the manner of the early explorer's description of Tasmania as rendered to the imagination of those at home. And such is the purpose of this illustration, as separate from the previous example - an English oak dwells precariously on a mythical promontory. Bligh planted some apple seeds before departing no doubt recognising the suitability of the soils and climate. Today of course Tasmanians   well appreciate the results of his augury.
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