Works included in this catalogue (listed in presumed chronological order)
Gill City Terminus of the M.& H.B. Railway 1854 {1868} SLV [PR]
Gill Melbourne Exhibition Buildings 1854 {1868?} SLV [PR]
Gill Toorak. The Residence of the Lieut.Govr.of Victoria 1854 {1868?} SLV [PR]
Gill The Treasury, Melbourne 1854 {1868} SLV [PR]
Gill Ballaarat from Mount Buninyong 1855 {1868?} SLV [PR]
* Gill Post Office, Melbourne 1856 (?) {1868} Loc? [PR]
Gill Overlanders {1872} SLV [WT]
Gill Near Geelong 1867 {1872} SLV [WT]
Gill The Victorian Gold Fields during 1852-3…1869 {1869} SLV [WT]
Gill Bushrangers’ Camp [#1] 1871 {1872} SLV [WT]
Gill Bushrangers’ Camp [#2] {1872} SLV [WT]
Gill Portland Bay from the South {1872} SLV [WT]
Gill Stockmen (Morning) 1871 {1872} SLV [WT]
Gill Stockmen (Noon) 1871 {1872} SLV [WT]
Gill Troopers after Bushrangers [#1] {1872} SLV [WT]
Gill Troopers after Bushrangers [#2] {1872} SLV [WT]
Gill The Gold Fields of Victoria during 1852 & 3… 1872 {1891} SLV [WT]
* Willmore (A.) after Gill Collegiate Grammar School {1868} Loc? [PR]
* Willmore (A.) after Gill Wesleyan Church, Melbourne {1868} Loc? [PR]

Gill arrived in Australia in 1839, and, after working in South Australia for some years, made his name with Sketches of the Victoria Diggings and Diggers as they are (1852), a set of lithographs vividly depicting the highs and lows of the prospector’s life during the early years of the Victorian gold rush (acquired later for the SLV, hence not catalogued here). During the next three decades, he documented many aspects of colonial Australian life, in a rich and varied oeuvre, given detailed and sympathetic attention in a major new monograph by Sasha Grishin (2015).

The pre-Felton Melbourne collection contained a significant number of Gill’s works on paper, as listed above, almost all of them still extant in the SLV collection. However, Gill Portland Bay from the South {1872} SLV [WT] was the sole example included in the 1905 NGV catalogue, although a few were recorded in NGV 1894.

Several prints by/after Gill are recorded as acquired in 1868 (including examples donated by John Pascoe Fawkner). But it is difficult to be precise about how many of his works were acquired in that year (and how many are extant), because of imprecise documentation. For example, a vague reference in the NGV’s unpublished list of pre-1905 acquisitions simply notes “12 views of Australian life & scenery” by Gill (with discontinuous acquisition numbers, implying that some works may have been de-accessioned later). A number of lithographs produced by Gill from 1854 onwards, and published as Sketches in Victoria (a series published by Blundell & Co.in 1855-56) appear to be among these acquisitions: see individual entries as noted above, However, as mentioned, originally there may have been more.

The SLV also holds a complete set of Victoria Illustrated (1857), which included some 46 engravings made after Gill’s designs; however, it is unclear whether this album was acquired before 1905, although some individual engravings from the 1857 edition or the 2nd edition of 1862 may have entered the collection: see e.g. * Willmore (A.) after Gill Collegiate Grammar School {1868} Loc? [PR]. These engravings, incidentally, were criticized at the time for modifying Gill’s acute observation of the Australian landscape to accord with British taste (see Grishin 2015, pp.120ff., including a lengthy quote from an 1857 critique).

In 1869, the Public Library commissioned directly from Gill a watercolour version of his famous Victorian gold-fields images (Gill The Victorian Gold Fields during 1852-3 1869 {1869} SLV [WT]), comprising 40 individual watercolour sketches. And during subsequent decades a number of other works were purchased for the collection, especially in 1872, when a group of 10 watercolours was purchased. Then in 1891, a second watercolour album of some 50 goldfields sketches, produced in 1872, was purchased.

By 1904, then, a very substantial group of Gill’s works – almost 120 works in total, if the individual watercolours in the 1869 and 1872 albums are included, and possibly more, if further lithographs and engravings not certainly documented were also acquired before 1905 – had been assembled for the Melbourne collection.

It remains unclear why almost none of these works were listed in the 1905 NGV catalogue. Perhaps they were regarded by that time essentially as library assets: as Grishin observes, the 1869 commission came directly from the library, not the NGV (which was not actually formally established until the end of 1869). But the 1872 purchases were made by the “joint trustees” (i.e. of both the library and the gallery), and all 9 watercolours bought in that year were listed under acquisitions in the gallery’s annual report for that year. Notions of Gill’s work as of minor artistic merit, and stories of the artist’s drunkenness (an issue addressed critically by Grishin) may also have played a part in attitudes to his art after his death.

Shar Jones (in Kerr 1992) notes that Gill’s work was virtually forgotten between his death and 1913, when A.W.Greig gave a paper on him to the Royal Historical Society, and was also instrumental in arranging for his remains to be transferred from a pauper’s grave in the Melbourne General Cemetery to a private grave with marked headstone.

A further 80 odd works by Gill were added to the NGV collection after 1905, including a full set of the colour lithographs from the Australian Sketchbook of 1864, purchased in 1953; and a complete set of impressions of the first 24 Sketches of the Victoria Diggings and Diggers as they are (1852), purchased in 2011. There are also significant holdings in the National Library of Australia.

Refs.

Grishin’s 2015 monograph is a comprehensive resource (including a full bibliography). See also Kerr Dictionary (1992), pp.296-98 (a detailed entry by Shar Jones), and AKL 54 (2007), pp.132-34 (entry by R.Smith). Impressions of Gill’s 1850s goldfields lithographs and Australian Sketchbook of 1864, also held in the SLV, were apparently acquired after 1905. For the NGV’s holdings, see https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/explore/collection/artist/4456/, and for the works in the National Library, see https://www.nla.gov.au/selected-library-collections/gill-collection