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British Museum Exhibition of John White Watercolors Coming to Jamestown Settlement in July 2008

September 14, 2007                         


WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – Jamestown Settlement will exhibit the 16th-century watercolor drawings of John White from the British Museum’s “A New World: England’s First View of America” July 15 through October 15, 2008.  Jamestown Settlement is a museum of 17th-century Virginia operated by the state’s Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.

 The town of Secotan, John White,
watercolor, c. 1585.
©The Trustees of the
British Museum.
All rights reserved.


The drawings are the earliest visual record by an Englishman of the flora, fauna and people of the New World.  White accompanied a number of expeditions sponsored by Sir Walter Raleigh to Virginia in the 1580s and was governor of the short-lived colony at Roanoke Island, part of modern North Carolina.  He departed for England in 1587 to obtain more supplies, but war with Spain delayed his return until 1590.  By then the colonists had vanished, and Roanoke became known as the “Lost Colony.”

Jamestown, America’s first permanent English colony, was established 17 years later, about 100 miles away.  White’s depictions of the Algonquian-speaking people of the region have been an important resource in the development of Jamestown Settlement’s gallery exhibits and outdoor re-created Powhatan Indian village.

Scenes from other parts of the Americas and depictions of peoples of the world also are among the more than 70 White drawings in the exhibition.

White’s work is widely known through adaptations by other artists, especially Theodor de Bry, whose engravings after White’s watercolors illustrate a 1590 edition of Thomas Harriot’s “A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia.”

All of White’s drawings are in the British Museum’s collection and are on public display as an entire group for the first time in 40 years.  Described by the United Kingdom’s Telegraph as “an enthralling exhibition” that “emphasizes not just the cultural importance of the works, but the humanity of the artist who made them,” “A New World: England’s First View of America” debuted at the British Museum from March to June 2007 and also will be shown at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, N.C., and the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Conn.

The exhibition at Jamestown Settlement is being funded in part by a grant of $100,000 from James City County.  The John White watercolors will be located in Jamestown Settlement’s special exhibition gallery, presently the venue for “The World of 1607,” which runs until April 2008.

Jamestown Settlement is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and is located on State Route 31 just southwest of Williamsburg.  For more information about the museum or exhibition sponsorship opportunities, call (888) 593-4682 toll-free or (757) 253-4838.