Portrait of George Vancouver

circa 1800
oil on canvas

This portrait is an enigma. The image has come to represent the recognizable face of Captain George Vancouver, yet it is unclear who painted it, or if it really is the famous explorer.

It was believed to have been painted by English artist Lemuel Abbott after a similar work attributed to him in the National Portrait Gallery, London. Experts have now cast doubt upon the National Portrait Gallery work: it may not have been painted by Abbott, and may not even be of George Vancouver. As there are no other surviving portraits of Vancouver from his lifetime, the identification remains unconfirmed.

Lemuel Abbott (ca 1760-1802) painted portraits of famous naval heroes, scientists and artists. Captain George Vancouver RN (1757-1798) served on two of Captain James Cook’s voyages of discovery between 1772 and 1778. In 1791, Vancouver, set sail to survey the Northwest Coast of North America returning to Britain in 1795. He completed a remarkably detailed survey of the Pacific coast from 30°N to 56°30’N., was the first European to visit Burrard Inlet, the future site of the City of Vancouver, and worked collaboratively with Spanish explorer Juan Francisco Bodega y Quadra at Nootka located on the island that today bears Vancouver’s name.

The portrait was presented to the Province in 1901 by William Walter.

This object selected by Don Bourdon. View Profile »