A unique glimpse into Bermuda’s history
In 1833 Johnson Savage disembarked from a sail boat in the port of St George to take up a three-year posting as surgeon for the Royal Artillery.
Over the ensuing months Dr Savage, a talented artist, went on to paint a series of spectacular watercolours that would provide a unique glimpse of a bygone era of Bermuda’s history.
The album was passed down through the generations, and despite almost being lost during London’s blitz in the Second World War, was donated to the National Museum last year by Dr Savage’s great-great-grandchildren Jenifer Hancock and Peter and William Savage.
Next week, 182 years after their great-great-grandfather set foot on the Island, Peter and William Savage along with their wives, Rosemary and Jacqueline, will return to Bermuda to see the launch of a new book; Dr Savage’s Bermuda, which features the watercolours and a host of other Savage memorabilia.
The book reproduces his paintings alongside present-day photographs by Allan Davidson, and includes other drawings and works of three generations of Dr Savage’s family on the Island.
It also includes the story of one of his sons, a midshipman in the Royal Navy based in Bermuda in the early 1860s, and of a grandson, who was 23 when he did the 1901 Ordnance Survey map of the Island, known as the Savage Survey.
The book’s editor and museum director Edward Harris said: “While at Bermuda, Johnson Savage painted 39 images of the Island and they are among the finest watercolours of Bermuda in the 19th century.
“Totally unknown in Bermuda until they were brought here in late 2013, the pictures are arranged in an album as a sort of travelogue of the place, starting in St George’s and progressing westward to the Royal Naval Dockyard at Ireland Island.
“The collection of paintings is unique, not only for their imagery for an early period before photography, but because it survived in the family as a discrete unit over almost two centuries.
“It is one of the finest gifts of art ever made to Bermuda and his great-great-grandchildren are to be congratulated for their generosity of spirit that led them to donate Dr Johnson Savage’s album of watercolours to the Island.”
Dr Savage’s Bermuda also includes a series of watercolours by the artistic surgeon depicting human organs that he and another doctor at Edinburgh University, Robert Carswell, worked on as part of a project to create an encyclopedia of the human body. The book has been published by the National Museum of Bermuda Press and is dedicated to the late Government archivist, Helen Elizabeth Rowe.