These are the words and hand of John White, appointed first as professional artist and mapmaker to three separate voyages to the New World.
It has been commented that White not only portrayed the indigenous peoples of the New World with a realism uncharacteristic of the era, but with sensitivity and grace.
Don't you just love the face of the baby peeking out of his (her?) mother's hood?
In 1584 and 1585, White accompanied two other expeditions, both to Virginia. His map of the coast was remarkably accurate, by modern standards:
Dozens of his watercolor sketches also survive of various flora and fauna, presumably of England as well as the New World. The man had an amazing eye for detail, and the patience to reproduce it for the world to see.
Once again, however, it's his portraits of the people of the New World--of what would become North Carolina, here--that I find most arresting. Charged with "painting to life" the land and peoples, he did so, capturing faces and scenes from the Caribbean up through Florida as well as the dress and manners of the Carolina Algonquin peoples. In so doing, he provides the only view we have of this time and region.
For those who read my last post on our visit to Roanoke Island Festival Park, these next two prints illustrate what the park attempts to bring to life in their Algonquin life displays:
"The broyling of their fish over the flame of fier"
The complaint is made that Harriot's writings, and White's work as well, was only carried out with an eye to the economic feasibility of supporting an English colony in the New World, but both men could be credited with seeing the Algonquins as a people in their own right and worthy of respect and dignity, even when others did not.
For John White, this respect served him well as Governor of Virginia, however short-lived was his time there in 1587. We know from his own account how grieved he was to leave, and how intensely he desired his colonists to live with love and friendship with the Croatoan people and their neighbors.
For further study:
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