Conrad Martens in Queensland: The Frontier Travels of a Colonial Artist
UQP, 150 pp., illus.
A few Thoughts and Paintings
Patchwork Press, 1978, $2.00 pb
I don’t quite know what to make of J.G. Steele’s dull, parochial catalogue of sketches and watercolours by Conrad Martens. The ‘frontier travels’ of one of our better colonial artists should, you expect, make interesting copy – especially when the artist in question happened to be prolific and the area of his travels the sparsely settled pastoral area of what is now South-eastern Queensland.
Immediately after his arrival in Australia in 1835, Martens set about exploring Sydney and its environs, and before four months had passed he had visited both the Blue Mountains and the Illawarra in search of suitable landscapes to paint. Prior to his arrival, Martens had succeeded Augustus Earle as artist on the Beagle, and through his contact with Darwin and Fitzroy the picturesque nature of his art was tempered by an interest in scientific accuracy and truth. His well-known watercolours of Sydney Harbour, with their closely observed cloud formations, are the main legacy of his interest.