Coronavirus (COVID-19) While museums are closed, the Museum of London prints site is fully operational and we have added an FAQ page here.

Reeves Collection. Wooden paint box used by Isaac Smith (Captain

William Reeves

Reeves Collection. Wooden paint box used by Isaac Smith (Captain
4 0 c m
actual image size: 22cm x 29cm

Full image caption

This paint box was made and sold by the colourman William Reeves. He established his first shop in the Little Britain area of the City of London in around 1766. Reeves used a blue coat boy as his shop sign as a reference to his charity school background. He has been credited with inventing the moist watercolour paint cake. The cakes were made in the basement of his shop. William later went into partnership with his brother Thomas. The two brothers were awarded the Silver Palette of the Society of Arts in 1781 for the invention of the watercolour cake.
This paint box belonged to Isaac Smith, the nephew of Captain James Cook. Smith joined his uncle on the voyage of the Endeavour (1768-71) and both voyages of the Resolution (1772-75 and 1776-79). Smith served as an able-bodied seaman and midshipman before being promoted to master's mate. He is alleged to be the first foreigner to have set foot on Australian soil when the Endeavour landed at Botany Bay in 1770. During these voyages Smith undertook surveying duties. Cook commended his nephew's ability to the Admiralty in 1770 describing him as a 'great use' and his surveying work as 'very expert'.

Smith used this paint box on the first voyage of the Resolution. The box contains twelve cakes of watercolour paint which are stored in labelled compartments. Each cake is embossed with an armorial shield and a greyhound crest, the Reeves trade mark. There is also an alabaster palette, a mussel shell used for mixing, two ivory brush stands and seven wooden paint brushes.

Image Details

1766 AD - 1772 AD
Image Number

© Museum of London

buy a print

Select print type
Select size
How many prints?

buy a framed print

buy a canvas

buy a framed canvas