More about The Reeves Collection, 2018
‘Over the almost 150 years presence of the East India Company in China, the most active officer in the service of natural history was undoubtedly John Reeves. The son of a clergyman, he was born in Essex in 1774 and appointed inspector of teas in England for the East India Company in 1808. He was then sent to China in 1812 as assistant inspector, later to become Chief Inspector of Teas in Canton.’
‘Within a short period of time after his arrival in Canton, Reeves established relationships with Chinese and Westerners who were interested in the natural sciences. He visited the Fa-tee nurseries and market places where plants and animals could be purchased.’
‘The East India Company was responsible for commissioning large numbers of drawings and many included natural history subjects. These drawings were often referred to as stock, company or export paintings and they were produced by artisans or craftsmen working in workshops made up of generations of family members.’
‘John Reeves was able to recruit skilled and talented artists from [these] family workshops established around the European factories. Reeves’s artists worked individually on a single subject. Concerned about the quality of the finished drawings, Reeves not only supplied imported European cartridge paper, watercolours and pencils for his artists but most importantly, he provided instruction in the subject of natural history illustration, detailing the conventions of botanical and zoological drawing.'
Judith Magee, Natural History Museum, London