National Maritime Museum collections blog
Conrad Martens: The second voyage of the HMS ‘Beagle’

PW6229.JPG
Conrad Martens, Mount Sarmiento, Tierra del Fuego, Showing ‘Beagle’ (PAF6229)
If, like me, you’ve enjoyed reading about Darwin recently then you’ll know that this year marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species. But you may not have read that here, at the National Maritime Museum, we hold many important artifacts relating to Darwin and his works including some superb watercolours showing Darwin’s expedition by, the official artist on board the Beagle, Conrad Martens.
PW6235.JPG
Conrad Martens, Montevideo Harbour II (PAF6235)
Conrad Martens was born in London in 1801 and trained as a landscape painter. Following a short voyage on board the HMS Hyacinth he replaced Augustus Earle, who’d been forced to leave the expedition due to ill health, as artist on board the second survey expedition of HMS Beagle (1831-1836). He joined the crew of the Beagle, which included Captain Robert FitzRoy and Charles Darwin, at Montevideo in 1833 and the Beagle accompanied by, a smaller vessel, HMS Adventure set off for Port Desire in December of that year.
PW6231.JPG
Conrad Martens, Island of Chiloe (PAF6231)
During the voyage Martens recorded the people that they encountered and the topography of the regions that they visited in four sketchbooks, two of which are in Cambridge University Library (Sketchbook I and III), later developing some of his preparatory sketches into watercolours. Privately employed by the Beagle‘s captain, Robert FitzRoy, Martens submitted many of his sketches to FitzRoy for approval. As such FitzRoy’s initials can be seen in the bottom right corner of this sketch (Cambridge University Library) of the Island of Chiloe (see PAF6231) suggesting that he approved Martens’s initial drawing. Unfortunately, in 1834, FitzRoy was forced to sell HMS Adventure and Martens left the expedition at Valparaiso in October of that year. Following this he travelled to Tahiti, New Zealand and Australia producing lithographs, sketches and watercolours of the places that he visited.
PW6240.JPG
Conrad Martens, Berkeley Sound, Falkland Islands (PAF6240)
In 1839 Charles Darwin published his experiences of the voyage in his widely acclaimed Journal and Remarks, 1832-1836. Darwin and Martens remained in contact and, in 1862, he wrote to Darwin congratulating him on the publication of On the Origin of Species. Martens died on 21 August 1878 in North Sydney, Australia. However his sketchbooks and watercolours are still important visual records of the voyage of the Beagle which informed Darwin’s research into the theory of evolution and transformed our understanding of the natural world.

  1. I don’t know how i got here but great post. Thanks

    Comment by George Marcinko August 16, 2010 @ 1:58 am

  2. Falklands island watercolour is fantastic

    Comment by Jeff June 16, 2011 @ 11:32 pm

  3. Samantha, are you sure your top painting (PAF6229) shows the Beagle? It may be she has her main yardarm rotated parallel to the foremast, but the foremast rigging looks too steep and the gaff (mizzen) sail swung out to port looks far too big (other pictures show the gaff at less than half the height of the mainmast).
    Compare: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:HMS_Beagle_by_Conrad_Martens.jpg
    and http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2010/09/the-hms-beagle-and-charles-darwin-on-the-shores-of-the-galapagos-islands-picture-essay-of-the-day/
    What is the source of the caption of this painting?
    I think the same goes for the Adventure.
    I am working on adding a bit of history to our own modern day expedition of Patagonia including the Beagle Channel, nice to make sure the facts are right.

    Comment by Craig Smith June 17, 2011 @ 7:53 am

  4. Another interesting post.

    Comment by Albert Smith September 15, 2011 @ 12:04 am

  5. What’s that flag in PAF6240? Is the same flag of ” Settlement at Port Louis”, the Martens’ watercolour that faces page 248 of Volume II of Charles Darwin’s “Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of His Majesty’s Ships Adventure and Beagle Between the Years 1826 and 1836″?

    Comment by Richard January 5, 2012 @ 6:19 am

Leave a Reply