Johann Georg Adam Forster

German, 1754–1794

Ice Islands with ice blink, 1773
Gouache on paper; 14 x 21 ¼ in. (35 x 54 cm)
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales 

During James Cook’s Antarctic expedition, William Hodges gave drawing lessons to the captain and to the ship’s naturalist, Johann Georg Forster. Under Hodges’s influence, Forster began highlighting in watercolor and relying less on simple outlines.

In this freely executed sketch, painted in opaque watercolor (gouache), Forster naturalistically records the region’s quickly changing weather conditions. The phenomenon of light bouncing off icebergs to the underside of clouds, known as “ice blink,” occupies center stage.

Forster maintained a diary and list of scientific discoveries as well as 700 drawings of flora and fauna observed or collected. In 1777, he wrote
A Voyage round the World in his Britannic Majesty’s sloop Resolution, commanded by Captain James Cook, during the years, 1772–1775 , which became one of the period’s most popular travelogues. Forster’s work influenced the renowned naturalist-explorer Alexander von Humboldt (Prussian, 1769–1859).