The first impressions to refer here are those of European visitors to Borneo. Other people preceded them, but they left no pictorial record. Not did the inhabitants of Borneo record there impressions of these strange visitors to there shores. This then must be records of first impressions seen through European and particularly British eyes.

The British were late in reaching Borneo. The first European to land of Borneo was Odiric of Pordenone, a Franciscan, in the mid-1320s. However, it was not until the sixteenth century that European began arriving in the area in any number. The first of these later travelers was an Italian, Lodovice De Varthema, in 1507, which torched at a portion the southeast coast. He was followed by many others. Among the most renowned is Pigafetta, the Chronicler Of Magellan's voyage, who describe the prosperous and crowded city of Brunei in 1521. However, as European influence increased, the traditional patterns of trade in the region were disrupted and although Brunei resisted Spanish attacks upon it, the Sultanate went into a slow decline. The main European activity avoided the northwest coast.

The Spanish confined themselves to the Philippines while the Dutch, having worsted the English, dominated the rest of the archipelago. However, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, British vessels were appearing in the archipelago with increasing frequency. Thus it was that Captain Beekman, whose drawing of an “Orang Utan " shows how little was known of Borneo, called at Bandjarmasin to attempt to open trade.

The northwest coast of Borneo was not visited by an Englishman until James Rendell

Passed along the coast and visit sulu in 1762 - 1763. Shortly afterwards the East India Company established a settlement on Balambangan in 1773. When this was destroyed

By Illanum pirates, the survivors settled briefly on Labuan before the Company abandonee its attempts to acquire a trading post in the area.

Thus when James Brooke sailed for the Sarawak River in 1839, very little was known about the northwest coast. Once he was established in Kuching, however, British ships make more frequent visits. Many of these were naval vessels and carried men eager to record what they saw in picture as well as in words. To English eyes the tropical luxuriance of Sarawak was strange and difficult to portray. Some illustrations, such as that of Gaming’s feast, have a botanical exactness which in its clarity of line is unreal. On the other hand, the early views of Brooke’s residence have the appearance of English parkland.

The Dayaks also caused the artists some difficulty. The idyllic-looking men and women there picture have more in common with the romantic concepts of the ' Noble Savage ' then current in Europe than with the more human reality. Perhaps because the artists were not on the top caliber, their illustrations often lack vitality, so that even a war dance seems not more than a lifeless tableau.

Before the advent of the camera, the amateur artist was a more common creature than he is now. Captain Bethune. Of H.M.S Driver, visited kuching in 1845 and accompanied James Brooke to Brunei and Labuan. Captain Kappel commanded the DIDO in expeditions against Iban pirates and was a close friend of James Brooke. Frank Marryat, whose drawing are amongst the freshest and most interesting, was the son of the novelist Captain Marryat and visited sarawak in 1844 as a midshipman of H.M.S SAMARANG. These and other early visitors could sketch with fair accuracy and their sketches and lithographs reveal the earliest European vision of Sarawak.

They also express the unfailing curiosity of these first adventurers, whose journals and letters are burdened with

Minute descriptions of the geography and climate, the flora and fauna, and of the inhabitants, their dress and artifacts, vocabularies and legends. Here, then is early Sarawak and its people as seems thought the eyes of these European artist.

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