'THE LIGHT HERE IS TOO GREEN & EVERYTHING HAS SUCH A PROFUSION OF GREEN THAT I CANNOT MAKE A PAINTING'
Martens was in Tahiti and neighbouring Moorea for seven weeks from 8 January to 4 March 1835. He worked up a number of his pencil and wash sketches made during his stay into pictures for a variety of patrons in Sydney in 1840 and 1841 (see for example the larger 'Island of Moorea (Eimeo) near Tahiti' dated 1840 (Dixson Galeries, ZDG15) and the picture of the same size as the present work 'The harbour of Papiete, Island of Tahiti' dated 1841 (Dixson Library ZDL27) in E. Ellis, Conrad Martens, Life & Art, Sydney, 1994, pp.13, 155 and 158). A number of his Tahitian drawings are in the Martens sketchbooks in the Cambridge University Library, which include a similar view of Moorea from Papeete ('Papiete Harbour', 6 February ), 7984:58.
Martens's period as FitzRoy's artist on the second surveying voyage of the Beagle came to an end abruptly at Valparaïso in October 1834, FitzRoy grudgingly having to let him go due to financial constraints ('It is neccessary also to leave our little painter, Martens, to wander about ye world', Charles Darwin in a letter to his sister Caroline, 13 October 1834). In Valparaïso, where he had arrived on the Beagle in July, he stayed with a German resident, Berger, and with the German artist Johann Moritz Rugendas [see lots 107 and 110] with whom he made a painting tour, before taking passage in early December on the Peruvian to Tahiti and New Zealand, en route to what would be his final destination, Sydney, New South Wales.
'By the end of December 1834 he was underway, crosssing the Pacific on the Peruvian, bound for Tahiti. They called at the Gambier and Chain Islands before arriving at their destination on 8 January. Like other visitors before and since, Martens was overwhelmed by the beauty of the island and nearby Moorea, sometimes called Eimeo, and devoted several pages of his Journal praising its scenery, vegetation and climate. The Reverend George Pritchard of the London Missionary Society and Honorary British Consul for the Society and Friendly Islands was his host at the main town of Papeete. He also stayed with another missionary, the Reverend Alexander Simpson, at Afareaitu on Moorea, and called on the Reverend Wilson at Point Venus, Tahiti, where Captain James Cook installed his observatory in 1770.' (E.Ellis, op. cit., p.12)