A View in the Island of Jamaica, of part of the River Cobre near Spanish Town 
Coloured engravingpublished 25 March 1778
About the work
This print is from a series of six views of Jamaica, which were commissioned by the sugar planter and historian William Beckford (1744-1799). Beckford was born in Jamaica, the son of Richard Beckford (died 1756), from whom he inherited four Jamaican sugar estates. He was also the nephew of William Beckford, Lord Major of London, and cousin of William Thomas Beckford, known for building Fonthill Abbey, in Wiltshire. After studying at Balliol College in Oxford, William Beckford travelled through Europe from 1767 to 1768. He later married and moved to Jamaica with his wife in February 1774, remaining there for 13 years. It was during his time in Jamaica that Beckford began to patronise artists he had met in England, inviting them to visit his Jamaican home. Among these artists were the portrait painter Philip Wickstead (died 1786) and landscape painter George Robertson (1742-1788).
About the artist
George Robertson was a landscape painter, who worked largely in watercolour. He also produced history paintings showing grand scenes from classical mythology or the Bible, and important historical events. He was born in London and studied there at Shipley’s Academy on the Strand (established in 1753) and in Italy. He later played an important role in the training of artists, prior to the foundation of the Royal Academy in 1765. In 1774, Robertson accompanied the historian William Beckford to Jamaica, where he painted six landscapes, which were later engraved. He exhibited at both the Royal Academy and the Society of Artists. Robertson died in 1788 at his home near Elephant and Castle, in London.
Nothing is known about the early life of the landscape engraver James Mason. He is first mentioned by engraver and antiquary George Vertue, working for the publisher Arthur Pond in 1744, when he was probably in his early twenties. Mason later established himself as a popular engraver, co-publishing some of his own works. He produced several engravings after paintings by landscape and scene painter George Lambert, the majority of which are dated between 1745 and 1761. Mason engraved considerably less after 1780. He died in 1805 at his home in Winchester Row, Paddington, and was buried nearby at St Mary’s Church. He referred to himself as engraver and shopkeeper in his will, which suggests that he also ran a print shop.