William STRUTT, Black Thursday, Melbourne, Victoria Enlarge 1 /1

William STRUTT

Teignmouth, Devonshire, England 1825 – Wadhurst, England 1915

  • France 1838-48
  • Australia 1850-55
  • New Zealand 1855-56
  • Australia 1856-62

Black Thursday, Melbourne, Victoria between 1862 and 1864 Place made: London, Greater London, England
Materials & Technique: drawings, watercolours, drawing in black pencil with additions in watercolour Support: thin smooth cream wove paper
Manufacturer's Mark: no manufacturer's mark.

Primary Insc: signed lower left in pen and black ink, 'William Strutt'. not dated. titled lower centre below image in pen and black ink, 'Black Thursday - Melbourne, Victoria'.
Secondary Insc: no inscriptions.
Tertiary Insc: no inscriptions.
Dimensions: image 14.1 h x 25.0 w cm sheet 18.0 h x 28.9 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1973
Accession No: NGA 73.318
  • Purchased by the Australian National Gallery, from Clune Galleries, Sydney, April 1973.

William Strutt was trained in the European tradition and spent less than 12 years of his life in Australia. However, his experiences of colonial life resulted in two major paintings – Black Thursday, February 6th, 1851 and Bushrangers, Victoria, Australia, 1852. A number of the drawings in the National Gallery’s large collection of more than 60 Strutt drawings, oil studies, sketches and watercolours, relate to these important works.

The pencil and watercolour study for Black Thursday is part of the preparatory work for Strutt’s largest and most impressive painting of an Australian subject. A devastating bushfire swept the state of Victoria in February 1851 shortly after Strutt’s arrival. He made a tour of the burnt out areas, listened to eyewitnesses’ accounts and made many sketches. This compositional study must have been drawn at a stage when plans for the final painting were approaching maturity, for it appears, with alterations, as the section on the extreme left of the painting.

It seems likely that an actor called Montford posed for the oil sketch and it was used for the head of one of the seated victims in the Bushrangers.

James Gleeson, 20021

1 Genesis of a Gallery, Canberra: Australian Government Publication Service for the Australian National Gallery, c.1976.

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