Louis Lebreton

French, 1818–1866

Landing on Adélie Land, January 21, 1840, from Voyage au Pôle Sud. . . 1837–1840, Paris, 1846
Lithograph, 21 5/8 x 14 ½ x 1 ½ in. (55 x 37 x 4 cm)
Linda Hall Library of Science, Engineering and Technology, Kansas City, Missouri

Between 1838 and 1843, three rival expeditions financed by the American, British, and French governments competed to find the magnetic South Pole. In January 1840, the crew of the French expedition, led by Captain Dumont d’Urville, landed on an island in sight of Antarctica. Although they never set foot on the continent, they claimed the region for France and named it Terre Adélie.

In Louis Lebreton’s lithograph marking the event, the now-famous Adelie penguins bear witness. This print, published in the expedition’s atlas and in Parisian newspapers, was based on a series of spontaneous drawings made on the spot.

Initially hired as the ship’s surgeon, Lebreton had drawing skills that were quickly noted by the captain, who invited him to document the expedition. For the rest of his career, Lebreton divided his time between medicine and art. Like many of his fellow artist-explorers, he later expanded his sketches into large paintings for exhibition.