• In 1771 Hearne began working for Sir Ralph Payne, the recently appointed Governor-General of the Leeward Islands, a group of sugar colonies consisting of Antigua, Nevis, St. Christopher’s (now St. Kitts), and Montserrat. Hearne spent three and a half years making working drawings and, after his return to England in 1775, produced twenty large and highly finished watercolors for Payne, of which only eight are now known. This watercolor depicts St. John’s at Antigua, the traditional center of government for the Leewards, where Payne had taken up residence, despite owning a large sugar estate on St. Christopher’s. After a major slave insurrection in Antigua in 1736, the colonial government had petitioned successfully to have a regiment stationed there, but the white West Indians living on the island remained in constant fear both of another slave revolt and of a French attack from nearby Guadeloupe and Martinique. One of Hearne’s watercolors is a vivid depiction of a hurricane that devastated Antigua on the night of 30 August 1772. The Center’s watercolor shows the newly rebuilt barracks and hospital and the renovated courthouse, as well as members of the 60th Royal American Regiment at exercise. The drawing functions as a pendant to Hearne’s image of the hurricane; if the violence of the storm is read as metaphor for insurrection and political instability, then Hearne’s panoptic view reinforces the message that Antigua was a well-governed and orderly colonial possession. Eliding the conventions of the military survey and the picturesque landscape, Hearne meticulously delineates the pristine and substantial government buildings, placing the spire of St. John’s church strategically at the center of the composition. He also includes discreet allusions to the sugar industry, showing, on the right, cane fields devoid of laborers, and behind, a sugar factory with a smoking chimney. Completing Hearne’s account of the social hierarchy, and drawing on the stereotype of the indolent slave, is the group in the foreground, consisting of a free soldier probably of mixed race, two slave children playing in a barrel, two men playing a game of chance, who appear from their dress to be domestic slaves, and a field slave, flanked by a cornucopia of fruit.
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  • A View on the Island of Antigua: the English Barracks and Saint John's Church Seen from the Hospital