Conrad MARTENS, View from Rose Bank Enlarge 1 /1

Conrad MARTENS

Crutched Friars, England 1801 – Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 1878

  • Australia from 1835

View from Rose Bank [View of Darlinghurst, Woolloomooloo Bay at left View from Rosebank] 1840 Place made: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on canvas

Dimensions: 46.8 h x 65.2 w cm
Acknowledgement: Gift of James Fairfax 1993
Accession No: NGA 93.549

For more than four decades Conrad Martens was the undisputed leader of landscape painting in New South Wales. The British-born artist had lived and worked in Sydney from 1835 until his death in 1878, making occasional sketching expeditions along the coast and into the coastal ranges, as well as to Brisbane. Although Martens was equally capable as an oil painter and a watercolourist, the majority of his work was in watercolour.

View from Rose Bank is one of the most Italianate of Martens’ landscapes, and one of the most satisfying. He was not so much concerned with depicting the scene factually as with creating a dreamy, light-drenched image of houses, gracious parklands and a mass of water in which the sky is reflected—an image of a civilised landscape. Although clearly identifiable as a view in Sydney, Martens adjusted the details of the scene to create an atmosphere similar to that of Italian landscapes. He even adapted his usual warmer tints and deeper tones to a cooler and lighter palette, appropriate to an Italian vista. As in so many of his paintings, the effect of air in this picture was of utmost importance.

 

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

For more than four decades Conrad Martens was the undisputed leader of landscape painting in New South Wales. The British-born artist had lived and worked in Sydney from 1835 until his death in 1878, making occasional sketching expeditions along the coast and into the coastal ranges, as well as to Brisbane. Although Martens was equally capable as an oil painter and a watercolourist, the majority of his work was in watercolour.

View from Rose Bank is among the most Italianate of Martens’ landscapes, and one of the most satisfying. He was not so much concerned with depicting the scene factually as with creating a dreamy, light-drenched image of houses, gracious parklands and a mass of water in which the sky is reflected—an image of a civilised landscape. Although clearly identifiable as a view in Sydney, Martens adjusted the details of the scene to create an atmosphere similar to that of a landscape in Italy. He even adapted his usual warmer tints and deeper tones to a cooler and lighter palette, appropriate to an Italian vista. As in so many of his paintings, the effect of air in this picture was of utmost importance.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014

From 1835 until his death in 1878, British-born Conrad Martens lived and worked in Sydney, making occasional sketching expeditions along the coast and into the nearby ranges. Some years later, he travelled by ship to the newly-established settlement at Brisbane and returned by the Darling Downs and the New England tableland.

Although Martens had a facility in oils to match his skill in watercolours, it was the latter medium that aroused his greatest enthusiasm. As an artist, he allowed himself the right to adjust the details of his subjects so that they would relate in ways that conformed to the requirements of picture making as he understood them. He was willing to falsify the fact, but only if the falsifications brought the facts of nature into a closer harmony with the demands of art.

By the 1870s, the colony had broken through the barrier of the coastal ranges and was opening out towards the west. The discovery of gold was an incentive, townships grew and railways were built to link them with the city on the coast. The steep western escarpment of the Great Dividing Range necessitated a zig-zag track on a series of massive viaducts, and it was this engineering feat in its wild natural setting that caught Martens’s imagination.

The View from Rose Bank is one of the most Italianate of Martens’s landscapes, and one of the most pleasing. He has made little attempt to render the scene in factual terms but converted it into a dreamy, light-drenched vision of patrician villas, gracious parklands and sky-reflecting water such as one might find in the Alban Hills near Rome, or around the lakes of Northern Italy. Even the colour has changed, from a palette which normally favoured the warmer tints and deeper tones to one pitched higher and on the cooler side.

James Gleeson, 2002.1

1 Text edited from James Gleeson, Colonial Painters: 1788–1880, Melbourne: Landsdowne, 1971; Masterpieces of Australian Painting, Melbourne: Lansdowne, 1969.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002