History

Pacific dreaming

To 18th-century Europeans, accustomed to bleak weather, overcrowded cities, soul-destroying work and impoverished diets, Polynesia sounded like Paradise. A benign climate, food in abundance, a life of pleasure and ease such was the popular notion and European painters imposed no restraints on their imaginations when it came to depicting this distant wonderland. "Les peuples de l'Ocean Pacifique," a wallpaper design by J. C. Charvet, 1805, owed more to romantic notions of classical Arcadia than to anything which existed in the South Seas. Even so, the Pacific dream has proved remarkably enduring.

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