Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The Early Modern Period

16th - 18th century


The smooth transition from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age is conventionally fixed on such events as the Reformation and the discovery of the "New World," which brought about the emergence of a new image of man and his world. Humanism, which spread out of Italy, also made an essential contribution to this with its promotion of a critical awareness of Christianity and the Church. The Reformation eventually broke the all-embracing power of the Church. After the Thirty Years' War, the concept of a universal empire was also nullified. The era of the nation-state began, bringing with it the desire to build up political and economic power far beyond Europe. The Americas, Africa, and Asia provided regions of expansion for the Europeans.

Proportions of the Human Figure by Leonardo da Vinci (drawing, ca. 1490)
is a prime example of the new approach of Renaissance
artists and scientists to the anatomy of the human body.



Oceania and Australia to the Arrival of the Europeans



The native inhabitants of Australia, New Zealand, and the islands of Oceania were able to develop their ancient culture over a long period of time. In the i6th and 17th centuries, the seafaring European nations arrived on the islands and mainland of Australia, but comprehensive European exploration did not occur until the 18th century. The explorers saw the inhabitants of the South Sea Islands as "noble savages" because of their harmonious lifestyle and lack of private property. After the loss of the American colonies, the British used Australia as a penal colony.



The diverse cultures of the Pacific islands formed predominantly local communities scattered across large areas. They were encountered by the European nations in the 16th century and gradually colonized.


Various cultures developed on the islands of New Guinea, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia.

They had in common 2 village settlements, the use of 3 stone tools, agriculture, the breeding of animals, and fishing.

Most of the societies were based on hierarchy and were led by a king or chief and a priest caste. Settlement took place over a prolonged period of time in various waves of migration, notably the Austroncsian migration that began around 750 B.C., and the Malayo-Polynesian migration that began around 500 â.ñ By 700 a.d. Raiatea, one of the Society Islands, was the center of the Polynesian world.

Between 900-1000 the Polynesians reached and settled Easter Island, Hawaii, and New Zealand, establishing the 1 Maori culture.

At the beginning of the 16th century, Spanish and Portuguese seafarers arrived in Oceania, initiating two centuries of European exploration. Magellan passed several Pacific islands during his 1519-1521 circumnavigation. In 1526 the Portuguese Jorge deMenezes claimed the island of New Guinea, while in 1524-1564 Spanish voyagers charted the majority of the islands of Micronesia. The Dutchman Abel Tasman, who came to New Zealand in 1642, was the first to make a more exact survey of the Melanesian region. In 1722, his countryman Jacob Roggevcen named Easter Island after the date of its sighting. On his three voyages between 1764 and 1780.

2 Matavae, a village on the island of Tahiti

Ceremonial Axehead of the
Maori chiefs

1 Moai, monolithic stone statues on Easter Island

Statues on Easter Island

James Cook, commissioned by the British Royal Society, traveled to 5, 6  Tahiti and circumnavigated New Zealand for the first time.

In 1772-1775 he arrived in New Caledonia and mapped the 4 New Hebrides, the Marquesas, and Tonga.

6 Polynesian woman from the
Tonga islands, 1895

see also:

Tahiti women


6 Woman holding a fruit, Tahiti-inspired
by Paul Gauguin, 1893

see also collection:

Paul Gauguin

see also:

Tahiti women



James Cook

On three voyages to the South Pacific, Captain James Cook, one of the last great seafaring discoverers, explored Oceania, Australia, and New Zealand.

In 1773, he became the first navigator to cross the Antarctic Circle, searching for the mysterious Terra Australis ("southern land"). On his third voyage, he looked in vain for a northern passage from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

In February 1779, he was killed in Hawaii by a group of islanders.

4 James Cook in the New Hebrides in 1774,
painting by William Hodges



The Death of Cook by John Webber


The Death of Cook by David Samwell


The Death of Cook by Johann Zoffany



James Cook

James Cook, portrait by Nathaniel Dance, c. 1775

British naval officer

born Oct. 27, 1728, Marton-in-Cleveland, Yorkshire, Eng.
died Feb. 14, 1779, Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii

British naval captain, navigator, and explorer, who explored the seaways and coasts of Canada (1759, 1763–67) and conducted three expeditions to the Pacific Ocean (1768–71; 1772–75; 1776–79), ranging from the Antarctic ice fields to the Bering Strait and from the coasts of North America to Australia and New Zealand.

Early life.
James Cook was the son of a farmhand migrant from Scotland. While Cook was still a child, his father became the foreman on a farm in a neighbouring village. Young James early showed signs of an inquiring and able mind, and his father’s employer paid for his schooling in the village until he was 12 years old. His early teens were spent on the farm where his father worked, but a brief apprenticeship in a general store in a coastal village north of Whitby brought him in contact with ships and the sea. At the age of 18, in 1746, he was apprenticed to a well-known Quaker shipowner, John Walker of Whitby, and at 21 was rated able seaman in the Walker collier-barks—stout, seaworthy, slow 300- and 400-tonners mainly in the North Sea trade. When the ships were laid up for refitting (done by the apprentices and crews) at Whitby during the worst months of winter, Cook lived ashore and studied mathematics by night. The Whitby barks, constantly working North Sea waters off a dangerous and ill-marked lee shore, offered Cook splendid practical training: the young man who learned his seamanship there had little to fear from any other sea.

Promoted to mate in 1752, Cook was offered command of a bark three years later, after eight years at sea. Advancement of this nature opened up a career that would have satisfied most working seamen, but instead Cook volunteered as able seaman in the Royal Navy. The navy, he was sure, offered a more interesting career for the competent professional seaman, and greater opportunity than in the North Sea barks. Tall, of striking appearance, Cook almost immediately caught the attention of his superiors, and with excellent power of command, he was marked for rapid advancement.

After advancing to master’s mate, and boatswain, both noncommissioned ranks, he was made master of HMS “Pembroke” at the age of 29. During the Seven Years’ War between Great Britain and France (1756–63) he saw action in the Bay of Biscay, was given command of a captured ship, and took part in the siege of Louisburg in Nova Scotia and in the successful amphibious assault against Quebec. His charting and marking of the more difficult reaches of the St. Lawrence River contributed to the success of General Wolfe’s landing there. Based at Halifax during the winters, he mastered surveying with the plane table. Between 1763 and 1768, after the war had ended, he commanded the schooner “Grenville” while surveying the coasts of Newfoundland, sailing most of the year and working on his charts at his base in England during the winters. In 1766 he observed an eclipse of the Sun and sent the details to the Royal Society in London—an unusual activity for a noncommissioned officer, for Cook still rated only as master.

The routes of Captain James Cook's voyages.
The first voyage is shown in red, second voyage in green, and third voyage in blue.
The route of Cook's crew following his death is shown as a dashed blue line.

Voyages and discoveries
In 1768 the Royal Society, in conjunction with the Admiralty, was organizing the first scientific expedition to the Pacific, and the rather obscure 40-year-old James Cook was appointed commander of the expedition. Hurriedly commissioned as lieutenant, he was given a homely looking but extremely sturdy Whitby coal-hauling bark renamed HMS “Endeavour,” then four years old, of just 368 tons, and less than 98 feet long. Cook’s orders were to convey gentlemen of the Royal Society and their assistants to Tahiti to observe the transit of the planet Venus across the Sun. That done, on June 3, 1769, he was to find the southern continent, the so-called Terra Australis, which philosophers argued must exist to balance the landmasses of the Northern Hemisphere. The leader of the scientists was the rich and able Joseph Banks, aged 26, who was assisted by Daniel Solander, a Swedish botanist, as well as astronomers (Cook rating as one) and artists. Cook carried an early nautical almanac and brass sextants, but no chronometer on the first voyage.

Captain James Cook meeting Nootka leaders at Nootka Sound, 1778

Striking south and southwest from Tahiti, where his predecessors had sailed west and west-northwest with the favouring trade winds, Cook found and charted all of New Zealand, a difficult job that took six months. After that, instead of turning before the west winds for the homeward run around Cape Horn, he crossed the Tasman Sea westward and, on April 19, 1770, came on the southeast coast of Australia. Running north along its 2,000-mile eastern coast, surveying as he went, Cook successfully navigated Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef—since reckoned as one of the greatest navigational hazards in the world—taking the Coral Sea and the Torres Strait in his stride. Once the bark touched on a coral spur by night, but it withstood the impact and was refloated. After the “Endeavour” was grounded on the nearby Queensland coast and repaired, Cook sailed it back to England. He stopped briefly at Batavia (modern Jakarta) for supplies, and, although the crew had been remarkably healthy until then, 30 died of fever and dysentery contracted while on land. None of the crew, however, died of scurvy (a dietary disease caused by a lack of ascorbic acid and that habitually decimated the crews of ships on lengthy voyages in the 18th century). This was because, in addition to ensuring cleanliness and ventilation in the crew’s quarters, Cook insisted on an appropriate diet that included cress, sauerkraut, and a kind of orange extract. The health in which he maintained his sailors in consequence made his name a naval byword.

Back in England, he was promoted to commander and presented to King George III, and soon he began to organize another and even more ambitious voyage. The success of the expedition of Joseph Banks and his scientists (which established the useful principle of sending scientists on naval voyages—e.g., Charles Darwin in the “Beagle,” T.H. Huxley in the “Rattlesnake,” and J.D. Hooker with Sir James Ross to the Ross Sea in the Antarctic) stimulated interest not only in the discovery of new lands but in the new knowledge in many other scientific subjects. The wealth of scientifically collected material from the “Endeavour” voyage was unique. Cook was now sent out with two ships to make the first circumnavigation of and penetration into the Antarctic.

Between July 1772 and July 1775 Cook made what ranks as one of the greatest sailing ship voyages, again with a small former Whitby ship, the “Resolution,” and a consort ship, the “Adventure.” He found no trace of Terra Australis, though he sailed beyond latitude 70° S in the Antarctic, but he successfully completed the first west–east circumnavigation in high latitudes, charted Tonga and Easter Island during the winters, and discovered New Caledonia in the Pacific and the South Sandwich Islands and South Georgia Island in the Atlantic. He showed that a real Terra Australis existed only in the landmasses of Australia, New Zealand, and whatever land might remain frozen beyond the ice rim of Antarctica. And, once again, not one of his crew died of scurvy. Back in England, he was promoted to captain at last, elected a fellow of the Royal Society, and awarded one of its highest honours, the gold Copley Medal, for a paper that he prepared on his work against scurvy.

There was yet one secret of the Pacific to be discovered: whether there existed a northwest passage around Canada and Alaska or a northeast one around Siberia, between the Atlantic and Pacific. Although the passages had long been sought in vain from Europe, it was thought that the search from the North Pacific might be successful. The man to undertake the search obviously was Cook, and in July 1776 he went off again on the Resolution, with another Whitby ship, the Discovery. This search was unsuccessful, for neither a northwest nor a northeast passage usable by sailing ships existed, and the voyage led to Cook’s death. In a brief fracas with Hawaiians over the stealing of a cutter, Cook was slain on the beach at Kealakekua by the Polynesian natives.

The Death of Cook  by John Cleveley in 1784

Cook’s voyaging left him comparatively little time for family life. Although Cook had married Elizabeth Batts in 1762, when he was 34 years old, he was at sea for more than half of their married life. The couple had six children, three of whom died in infancy. The three surviving sons, two of whom entered the navy, had all died by 1794.

Cook had set new standards of thoroughness in discovery and seamanship, in navigation, cartography, and the sea care of men, in relations with natives both friendly and hostile, and in the application of science at sea; and he had peacefully changed the map of the world more than any other single man in history.

Alan John Villiers

Encyclopaedia Britannica



Australia up to British Colonization

The Australian native inhabitants, the Aborigines, constitute an independent cultural society. Europeans first arrived in Australia in the 17th century, but colonization by the British only began in the second half of the 18th century.


The Australian 8 native inhabitants lived as hunter-gatherers and killed wild animals with throwing spears or wooden clubs.

8 Portrait of an Aborigine woman

Bathurst Island men

Personal photographs of the Hon. C L A Abbott during
his term as Administrator of the Northern Territory -
Aborigine Chief of Bathurst Island who died of fright
 in Darwin when he saw his first motor car Date: 1939

Aboriginal people

Australian Aboriginal domestic scene from 1857 depicting traditional recreation,
including a football game which may be Marn Grook

They fashioned vessels and tools out of wood, bone, and shells.

Their extensive 10 religio-cultic concepts often revolved around the relationship between the living and totem animals and their ancestors, and are often presented in colorful rock paintings.

10 Three ghost figures,
an Aboriginal painting on tree bark

The oldest settlement finds in Australia have been dated as early as 24,350 B.C. The earliest immigrants probably came through Southeast Asia and Melanesia.
Lack of written evidence and the heavily mythological form of the oral histories make a more exact dating extremely difficult. The Aborigines still represent an independent cultural society in Australia today.

The arrival of Europeans in Australia began in 1605 with the Dutch captain Willem Jansz.

The 7 barren, arid land and the often hostile behavior of the Aborigines offered the Dutch little incentive to colonize, though they anchored off the north coast several times.

7 The Australian interior or "outback"

Commissioned by the governor of the Dutch Indies, Anthony van Diemen, 12 Abel Tasman undertook a voyage of exploration around Australia in 1642-44.

He charted the island named after him, Tasmania, in 1642, and the South Island of New Zealand and the Tongan and Fijian islands in 1643. Australia was then called "New Holland," although the Dutch did not pursue their colonial interest.

11 William Dampier, a British sea captain, reached the northwestern coast of Australia by way of the Marianas and the Moluccas in 1699 and was the first to describe the native inhabitants and their culture.

In April 1770, Captain Cook, after crossing the Pacific Ocean, landed on the southeast coast of Australia in Botany Bay, south of modern Sydney, and claimed the land for the British crown, naming it "New South Wales." His companion, the naturalist Joseph Banks, provided the crown with a description of the land, which raised great interest back in Britain, even more so after the loss of the American colonies.

London decided to use Australia as a penal colony for 9 British prisoners, who were to cultivate the land under strict supervision.

In January 1788, the first prisoner ship, carrying 730 convicts, anchored north of Botany Bay. There, the New South Wales penal colony was established; Sydney was founded nearby for the colonial officials. Convicted prisoners continued to be deported to Australia until 1868. The last of the prison colonies, located on the island of Tasmania, was closed in 1877.

12 Route traveled by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman,
who in the 17th century searched the Pacific Ocean for
new trade routes for the Netherlands

11 The English discoverer and
privateer, William Dampier

Group of English convicts deported from
England to the penal colony, working the land,
steel engraving, 1835


Rock painting at Ubirr in Kakadu National Park


Aboriginal Rock Art, Anbangbang Rock Shelter, Kakadu National Park, Australia



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