Monday, January 5, 2009

Magnificent hand-colored lithographs of Hawaii and its Native Peoples by Louis Choris

Idoles des Iles Sandwich

Danse des hommes dans les iles Sandwich

Porte d'Hanarourou

Louis (or Ludovik) Choris, a Russian of German extraction, showed a talent for natural history illustration at a remarkably early age, and initially won high praise for his pictorial work on Biberstein's journey to the Caucasus in 1813. His most celebrated publications, however, were the Voyage Pittoresque Autour du Monde and the Vues et Paysages des Regions Equinoxiales. In both of these magnificent works, Choris provided important pictorial representations of the people, landscape, and artifacts of the still-mysterious islands of the Pacific, California, Alaska, the northwest coast of America, and other far-off lands.

Choris had first-hand knowledge of these places, having been the official artist accompanying the Russian expedition around the world led by Otto von Kotzebue, the primary object of which was the search for a Northwest Passage. The voyage took place in 1815-1818 aboard the “Rurik,” which entered the Pacific via the Horn and eventually returned to Europe via the Cape of Good Hope and St. Helena. Choris had been invited by the St. Petersburg Academy to accompany Kotzbue, and the two published works which resulted represent a fine cross-section of the places that the expedition visited, specifically including such locales as, Brazil, Chile, the Pacific Islands, Hawaii, Kamchatka, the Philippines, the Cape of Good Hope and Saint Helena. These works have great American interest because of their early accounts of California, The Hawaiian Islands, the Queen Charlotte Islands, the Aleutians, St. Lawrence Island, and Kotzebue Island in Alaska. .

Louis Choris visited Hawaii in 1816 and illustrated his observations during a critical period in Hawaiian history, just prior to the death of Kamehameha I and the fall of the kapu system. Choris witnessed the Islands just prior to the ensuing chaos from the collapse of the old political and social system. The three weeks that the Russian ship, “Rurik” spent in Hawaiian Waters produced incredible illustrations by Choris, and provide invaluable insight into the people, places and cultural practices of Hawaii. Choris is said to have "painted nature as he found it. The essence of his art is truth; a fresh, vigorous view of life, and originality in portrayal." Thus Choris’ 1822 publication is not only considered to be one of the most beautiful relating to travel, but one of the most accurate.

Please inquire regarding other extraordinary original lithographs from this publication. Arader galleries can be reached by phone at 415.788.5115 or online at

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