Sydney Parkinson was the botanical illustrator who accompanied Captain Cook on the Endeavour journey to the South Seas, New Zealand, and Australia.
He was the first European artist to draw and paint plants collected on Australian soil, to draw an Australian landscape, and to portray the indigenous people from direct observation.
Sydney Parkinson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1745 and was originally a woolen-draper and became proficient at drawing plants and flowers.
Young Sir Joseph Banks discovered and then hired Parkinson to draw plants at the botanical garden at Kew. Sir Joseph Banks, 1st Baronet, was an English naturalist, botanist, and patron of the natural sciences and made his name on the 1766 natural-history expedition to Newfoundland and Labrador. He took part in Captain James Cook's first great voyage (1768–1771), visiting Brazil, Tahiti, and after 6 months in New Zealand, Australia, returning to immediate fame. He held the position of president of the Royal Society for over 41 years. He advised King George III on the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and by sending botanists around the world to collect plants, he made Kew the world's leading botanical gardens. He is credited for bringing 30,000 plant specimens home with him; amongst them, he discovered 1,400. Banks advocated British settlement in New South Wales and colonization of Australia, as well as the establishment of Botany Bay as a place for the reception of convicts, and advised the British government on all Australian matters. He is credited with introducing the eucalyptus, acacia, and the genus named after him, Banksia, to the Western world. Around 80 species of plants bear his name. He was the leading founder of the African Association and a member of the Society of Dilettanti, which helped to establish the Royal Academy.
In 1768, Parkinson was hired by Joseph Banks as the botanical draughtsman to draw the plants on the next voyage on the Endeavour with Captain Cook to South America, Tahiti, New Zealand, and Australia.
Initially he was accompanied by Alexander Buchan, the topographical draughtsman - but he died in Tahiti and it's clear Parkinson also took on some of the work Buchan would have done.
Sydney lived and worked on board ship (not a level surface!) in a small cabin surrounded by hundreds of specimens. In Tahiti, he was plagued by swarms of flies which ate the paint as he worked. You can read more about the voyage in this Journal.
On the return trip, the ship Endeavour was besieged by illness and Sydney Parkinson contracted dysentery at Princes Island, on the way to Cape Town. He died on January 26th, 1771 and was buried at sea.