S.T.Gill: Victorian Gold Fields 1852-3, no.6: The Claim Disputed. Commissioned by the Melbourne Public Library, 1869. SLV (H87.7/6)



The specialist field of watercolour painting attracted the attention of both professional and amateur practitioners and collectors in the 19th and earlier 20th centuries. Melbourne’s pre-Felton collection included a small but significant group, now somewhat reduced by later de-accessioning (as elsewhere in this catalogue, an asterisk indicates works no longer in the collection).

In the early years of the Melbourne collection, some significant watercolours were acquired, including several notable commissions, especially Gill The Victorian Gold Fields during 1852-3… 1869 {1869} SLV [WT] and Martens One of the Falls on the Apsley 1873 {1873} NGV [WT], commissioned respectively by the Melbourne Public Library and the National Gallery of Victoria. John Pascoe Fawkner’s substantial 1868 gift of works on paper included several watercolours of early Melbourne, especially by George O’Brien (see linked artist entry, also listing related drawings).

A large group of Australian wildflower drawings (presumably watercolours) was acquired in 1872: see * Unknown “Portfolio of 123 Wildflower drawings” {1872} Loc? [WT] and * Blyth (attrib.) Australian Flowers {1872} Loc? [WT]. John Ruskin, while NGV advisor in 1871-2, also recommended the purchase of several watercolours by English contemporaries Morrish, Phillott and Watson (refer individual entries for details). A group of characteristic watercolours by S.T.Gill was also purchased in 1872.

These acquisitions formed the basis for subsequent expansion after 1875. Watercolours acquired after that date include the following  (refer individual entries for details, if not specified):

– Examples by Brierly, Gilbert and Tommasi, shown at the Melbourne International Exhibition 1880-81, and subsequently acquired for the collection.

– 2 flower compositions by Ellis Rowan, bought in 1890: see especially Rowan Flower Painting: Pandorea jasminoides… {1890} NGV [WT].

– 3 works (by Meyerheim, North and Smythe) bought on the advice of Hubert von Herkomer in 1891-2.

– 7 examples bought from the British Art Gallery after being shown at the Anglo-Australian exhibition held in Melbourne in 1892: see Bromley, Cook, Fahey, Hayes, Hern, Parker and Weedon (several of these were subsequently de-accessioned).

– Following his appointment as NGV Director in 1892, Bernard Hall was a significant contributor in his own right as advisor on local purchases, including 2 significant watercolours by Varley. In 1904, Hall also selected 9 watercolours (almost all landscapes) from Alfred Felton’s personal collection, acquired under the terms of his will: see Buvelot (2 works), Cook, Leitch, Ludby, Marshall, O’Brien, Roberts and Simoni.

– 9 contemporary British examples bought in 1901 on the recommendation of the Royal Academy, selected from the exhibition in that year of the Royal Society of Painters in Water-Colours: see Bell, Brockbank, Bundy, Hobson, Hughes, Lance, Pedder, Rainey and Smith

– In 1902, William Strutt donated his memorable image of the start of Burke & Wills’ expedition in August 1860: Strutt The Burke and Wills Exploring Expedition 1862 {1902} SLV [WT].

By 1904/5, Melbourne’s watercolour collection comprised some 150 individual examples, plus the 2 Gill goldfields albums (comprising 40 and 50 sheets respectively), and * Unknown “Portfolio of 123 Wildflower drawings” {1872} Loc? [WT]: a grand total of almost 375 sheets. Leaving aside the mysterious wildflower portfolio, some 74 of these are no longer in the collection, many of them documented as de-accessioned and transferred or auctioned during the 1940s and early 1950s. Admittedly, the absence of some of these works can hardly cause much regret, including the various Italian tourist examples acquired during visits to Rome by the Melbourne gallery’s London agents in the 1870s and 80s (see under Gigli, Guardabassi and Provaggi). However, the loss of other works, notably watercolours by British artists active in the later 19th century, seems more regrettable: see e.g. * Smith (C.) Christmas Eve 1901 {1901} Loc? [WT], auctioned off in Melbourne in 1950 (with other works); it re-surfaced in London in the 1990s, and sold at auction in 2008 for just under GB£30,000.

Fortunately, many of the better pre-Felton watercolour acquisitions survived the cull, and a number were featured in the NGV’s 2011-12 in-house exhibition British Watercolours, 1760-1900: The Age of Splendour : see e.g. Bromley The Road that Skirts the Common {1892} NGV [WT].

Particular reference is made in these entries to Mallalieu’s specialist 1976 study (refer bibliography for details). It should also be observed that there is some inevitable overlap between watercolours and drawings in the present catalogue, with several works listed in each category that could as easily be included in the other: see e.g. Hoddle Melbourne from Surveyor-General’s Yard {1893} SLV [WT] and O’Brien Melbourne seen from the Hospital {1868} SLV [DR].


Individual entries

Austin Arrival of the First Gold Escort {1884} SLV [WT]

Bell (R.) A Flight of Fairies 1901 {1901} NGV [WT]
* Blyth [attrib.] Australian Flowers {1872} NGV [WT]
Brierly Admiral Blake, with a squadron of five ships {1881} NGV [WT]
Brockbank In the Cornfield {1901} NGV [WT]
Bromley The Road that Skirts the Common {1892} NGV [WT]
Bundy To Sedgmoor 1901 {1901} NGV [WT]
Burn [attrib.] Melbourne from the Old Sandridge Road {1901} SLV [WT]
Buvelot Victorian scene {1904} NGV [WT]
Buvelot Yarra Flats 1871 {1904} NGV [WT]

* Campi Emily {1876} Loc? [WT]
* Campi Japanese 1876} Loc? [WT]
* Clarke (G.) King’s College, Cambridge 1872 {1875} Loc? [WT]
Cook Near Arundel 1882 {1904} NGV [WT]
* Cook Venice (Evening) 1889 {1892} Loc? WT]

Davies (H.) View on the River Yarra {1871} SLV [WT]
* Davies (H.) The Wreck {1871} Loc? [WT]

Fahey The Farm 1890 {1892} Loc? [WT]
* Field Grey Day on the Thames 1871 {1872} Loc? [WT]

Gigli The Colosseum {1883} NGV [WT]
* Gigli Goldsmith’s Arch {1883} Loc? [WT]
* Gigli Temple of Minerva {1883} Loc? [WT]
* Gigli Temple of Vesta {1883} Loc? [WT]
* Gilbert (John) Louis XIV transacting business {1881} Loc? [WT]
Giles Loch Avon {1871} NGV [WT]
Gill Bushrangers’ Camp [#1] 1871 {1872} SLV [WT]
Gill Bushrangers’ Camp [#2] {1872} SLV [WT]
Gill The Gold Fields of Victoria during 1852 & 3… 1872 {1891} SLV [WT]
Gill Near Geelong 1867 {1872} SLV [WT]
Gill Overlanders {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 Victorian Gold Fields during 1852-3… 1869 {1869} SLV [WT]
Glover (J.) Tasmanian Landscape {1900} Loc? [WT]
* Guardabassi L’Elemosina {1883} Loc? [WT]
* Guardabassi The Matador {1883} Loc? [WT]
* Guardabassi Una Vecchia che fila {1883} Loc? [WT]
* Guardabassi Un Vecchio Cappuccino {1883} Loc? [WT]
Guardabassi The Venetian Senator {1883} NGV [WT]
* Gully The Boundary, Snowy Mountains, New Zealand 1870 {1870} Loc? [WT]
Gully Croixelles Harbour 1868 {1870} NGV [WT]
Gully Waimea Plains 1868 {1870} NGV [WT]

* Hall (G.) The Tide of the Solway 1878 {1879} Loc? [WT]
* Hall (J.) Twilight 1901 {1901} Loc? [WT]
* Hayes Fishing Vessels off Granton {1892} Loc? [WT]
* Hegg Two Flower paintings {1878} Loc? [WT]
* Hern Fishing Boats, Rhyl {1892} Loc? [WT]
* Hobson St Elizabeth {1901} Loc? [WT]
* Hoddle Melbourne, Port Phillip 1840 {1893} Loc? [WT]
Hoddle Melbourne from the Survey Office 1840 {1893} SLV [WT]
Hoddle Melbourne from Surveyor-General’s Yard {1893} SLV [WT]
Hoddle Racecourse and Survey Office {1893} SLV [WT]
Hood Sir Dominick Daly 1878 {1878} SLV [WT]
Hughes The Princess out of School {1901} NGV [WT]
* Hunter Sydney Harbour {by 1894} Loc? [WT]

Jackson Colonel Johnston 1873 {1873} SLV [WT]
Jackson Lachlan Macquarie 1874 {1874} SLV [WT]
Jackson Sir Richard Bourke 1874 {1874} SLV [WT]

Lance (E.) Blue Solitudes {1901} NGV [WT]
Law Cliveden on the Thames {1883} NGV [WT]
Law Windsor Castle {1883} NGV [WT]
Leitch Italian scene 1876 {1904} NGV [WT]
Leitch Dunglass on Clyde 1879 {1891} NGV [WT]
* Ludby River scene 1884 {1904} Loc? [WT]

Marshall A Bit of Devonshire 1887 {1904} NGV [WT]
Martens One of the Falls on the Apsley 1873 {1873} NGV [WT]
Mather Morning, Lake Omeo 1891 {1891} NGV [WT]
Mather Wintry Weather, Yarra Glen 1895 {1895} NGV [WT]
* May (W.) Wreck off the Kentish Coast {1883} Loc? [WT]
* Meyerheim ‘When the Snow and Ice are gone’ {1891} Loc? [WT]
Moreton Sunset, Mount Earnshaw {1886} NGV [WT]
* Morrish Landscape, near Manaton 1870 {1871} Loc? [WT]

Nash Australian Section…, London 1862 1863 {1881} SLV [WT]
North The Little Copse on the Hill 1891 {1892} NGV [WT]

O’Brien Corner of Collins and Swanston Street 1853 {1904} NGV [WT]
O’Brien Melbourne… 1840 {1868} SLV [WT]
* O’Brien [attrib.] Residence of Captain Lonsdale {1868} Loc? [WT]
O’Brien View from the Junction of Barkley {sic} and Princes Streets 1862 {1886} SLV [WT]
* O’Brien View from Retreat Villa, St Kilda 1862 {1886} Loc? [WT]

* Parker Miss Hardcastle 1889 {1892} Loc? [WT]
Pedder The Lame Foot {1901} NGV [WT]
Phillott The Haunt of Ancient Peace {1871} NGV [WT]
* Provaggi The Minstrel {1876} Loc? [WT]
* Provaggi The Nephew {1876} Loc? [WT]
Pugin Oxford {1877} NGV [WT]

Rainey The Market Boat {1901} NGV [WT]
Richardson (T.) Corrie Echen 1880 {1880} NGV [WT]
* Richmond Lake Wanaka and Mount Aspiring {1872} Loc? [WT]
Roberts Heidelberg Castle {1904} NGV [WT]
Robertson Melbourne from the Flagstaff Hill {1880} SLV [WT]
* Rowan Flower painting {1890} Loc? [WT]
Rowan Flower Painting: Pandora jasminoides… {1890} NGV [WT]
Russell Melbourne from the Falls 1837 {1903} SLV [WT]

* Severn Boscastle Harbour{1885} Loc? [WT]
Simoni The Marble Mosque 1879 {1904} NGV [WT]
* Smith (C.) Christmas Eve 1901 {1901} Loc? [WT]
Smythe The Breadwinners 1891 {1891} NGV [WT]
Stanfield Countrymen at Dinner {1877} NGV [WT]
Strutt The Burke and Wills Exploring Expedition 1862 {1902} SLV [WT]

* Tommasi [De] The Public Writer 1880 {1881} Loc? [WT]

Varley Dolgelly near Barmouth 1818 {1902} NGV [WT]
Varley Moel Heboeg {1902} NGV [WT]

* Watson Cottage scenery {1871} Loc? [WT]
Weedon Changing pasture 1891 {1892} NGV [WT]
* Weedon Glen Falloch 1882 {1883} Loc? [WT]
* Wehnert Death of Jean Goujon 1847 {1874} Loc? [WT]

Unknown Captain Francis Crozier {1882} SLV [WT]

* Unknown Five views of British Guiana {1873} [WT]
Unknown Hobson’s Bay, from the Signal Staff 1854 {1891} SLV [WT]
* Unknown: Two views of Corinth {by 1865} Loc? [WT]
* Unknown “Portfolio of 123 Wildflower drawings” {1872} Loc? [WT]