S. T. GILL, Night. Enlarge 1 /1


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

  • Australia from 1839

Night. 1870 Place made: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Materials & Technique: drawings, watercolours, painting in watercolour over drawing in black black pencil, highlighted with gum arabic Support: paper

Primary Insc: signed and dated by incision, 'S T G / 70'.
Tertiary Insc: inscribed with title, 'Night' on original backboard received with work. Inscribed on original backboard received with work but now lost, 'A. W. Fuller. 21. Nov. 1930. 3.10/-'.
Dimensions: image 29.0 h x 44.8 w cm sheet 29.0 h x 44.8 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1969
Accession No: NGA 69.24
  • Purchased by Commonwealth Art Advisory Board (C.A.A.B.], from Sotheby Parke Bernet, London, 1969.

In the relatively small watercolour, Night, S.T. Gill presents what could be termed a snapshot from a stockman’s life. Sheltering in the hollow of a hill near a billabong in a windswept landscape, two stockmen wrapped in blankets huddle near the campfire and their boiling billy, while the native stockman sits to one side, barefoot on an exposed patch of ground. In the distance, the cattle graze in the moonlight under a stormy sky, while far away amongst the undulating hills there burns another campfire with its puff of smoke.

Gill arrived at Glenelg in South Australia in 1839 as a 21-year-old English trained artist. He brought with him a considerable amount of intellectual baggage, including ideas concerning landscape art in general as well as some views on the likely appearance of the Australian landscape. All these notions had formed during his childhood and youth in Plymouth and apprenticeship and training in London.

In the subsequent 40 years which he spent in Australia, until his death in 1880, many of these ideas were modified as he travelled extensively throughout South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. Gill was predominantly a watercolourist and lithographer and produced literally thousands of images of the Australian landscape and, more particularly, of life in the fledgling towns, on the goldfields and in rural Australia. Although quick to exploit the satirical and topical aspects of the scenes which he encountered, Gill was also a very exacting and astute observer of life.

Sasha Grishin, 2002.

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