S. T. GILL, Sturt’s overland expedition leaving Adelaide Enlarge 1 /1

S. GILL

Periton, Devonshire, England 1818 – Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 1880

  • Australia from 1839

Sturt’s overland expedition leaving Adelaide 1844 Place made: Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Materials & Technique: drawings, watercolours, painting in watercolour over drawing in black pencil Support: paper

Dimensions: image 24.8 h x 38.4 w cm sheet (sight) 25.0 h x 39.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2012.
Accession No: NGA 2012.1307
Provenance:
  • Angas Family by descent.
  • Purchased by Hordern House Rare Books, Sydney, 22 August 2011 lot 30.
  • Purchased by the National Gallery of Australia, from Horden House, Sydney, August 2012.

ST Gill’s seemingly effortless yet meticulously rendered Sturt’s overland expedition leaving Adelaide is an exceptional display of his highly accomplished skills as a watercolourist, which made him one of the most prominent artists in Australia in the 1840s.

Emigrating from England, Gill and his father arrived in Adelaide in 1839. There, Gill cultivated his artistic reputation, recording social and economic life in the region through his scenes of significant local events. This watercolour is one of Gill’s earliest depictions of great history subjects. It commemorates the departure of explorer and government official Charles Sturt to Central Australia in August 1844 to settle continued debates over the existence of an inland sea. Sturt’s expedition was met with great public interest and anticipation, although he abandoned the search in 1845.

This engaging scene, viewed from the corner of King William Street, encapsulates the sense of excitement of the momentous event. The vast stream of horses trotting purposefully across the composition is echoed by the white clouds racing across the sky. Gill’s refined observational skills are demonstrated in the topographical accuracy of the scene, from the architectural features of the city’s buildings to the fine detailing of shopfronts and signage lining the streets. The crowds of settlers and Indigenous people are rendered in delicate and confident brushstrokes.

Gill resettled in the Victorian goldfields in 1852 and had moved to Melbourne by 1864, where he succumbed to the alcoholism that markedly affected the quality and consistency of his work. He died in 1880 after falling down the stairs of Melbourne’s GPO Building. Produced many years before, in 1844, Sturt’s overland expedition leaving Adelaide reveals the promise of his early career and remains a sparkling example of his work.

Rebecca Edwards Gordon Darling Intern, Australian Prints and Drawings


in artonview, issue 72, Summer 2012/13

ST Gill’s seemingly effortless yet meticulously rendered Sturt’s overland expedition leaving Adelaide is an exceptional display of his skills as a watercolourist, making him one of the most prominent artists in Australia in the 1840s.

Gill arrived in Adelaide from England in 1839. There he cultivated his artistic reputation, recording social and economic life in the region through his scenes of significant local events. One of Gill’s earliest depictions of great history subjects, this watercolour commemorates the departure of explorer and government official Charles Sturt to Central Australia in August 1844. Initiated to settle continued debates over the existence of an inland sea, Sturt’s expedition was met with great public interest and followed enthusiastically until he abandoned the search in 1845.

This engaging scene, viewed from the corner of King William Street, captures the momentous nature of the historic event. The stream of horses trotting purposefully across the composition is echoed by the white clouds racing across the sky. Gill’s refined observational skills are demonstrated in the topographical exactitude of the scene, from the architectural features of the city’s buildings to the fine detailing of signage lining the streets. The crowds of settlers and Indigenous people gathered to witness the exodus of the expedition party are rendered in crisp and delicate brushstrokes.

Gill later settled in Melbourne and by the mid 1860s had succumbed to alcoholism, which markedly affected the quality and consistency of his later work. Sturt’s overland expedition leaving Adelaide is a sparkling example of his work and the promise of his early career.


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