John Skinner PROUTThomas BLUETT, Fern Tree Valley, Mount Wellington. Enlarge 1 /1

John Skinner PROUT

Plymouth, Devon, England 1805 – Camden Town, London, England 1876

  • Australia 1840-48


England 1809 – 1846

printer, lithographic

  • working Australia 1842 - 45

Fern Tree Valley, Mount Wellington. 1844
Collection Title: Prout, John Skinner. Tasmania Illustrated. Hobart Town, 1844
Page: plate 4
Place made: Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Materials & Technique: prints, ink; paper lithograph, printed in colour inks, from two stones (black image, buff tint and text) Support: wove paper
Edition State: published state
Impression: undesignated impression as issued
Edition: print run unknown
Place Published: Hobart: T Bluett

Dimensions: printed image 29.6 h x 41.6 w cm sheet 37.6 h x 56.3 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1984
Accession No: NGA 84.1292
Subject: Australia, Art period: Colonial, Tasmania
  • Purchased by the Australian National Gallery, from Spencer Scott Sandilands, Melbourne, September 1984.

The Tasmanian landscape, and particularly the falls, rivulets and fern gullies of Mount Wellington, inspired John Skinner Prout and provided him with a subject suited to his energetic style. In Fern Tree Valley, Mount Wellington, he depicted an artist at work in a pretty fern tree thicket near Hobart. He made many drawings, watercolours and paintings of this place, including one painting portraying a family picnicking there with baskets of food.

Prout travelled around Hobart and the nearby area collecting material for this and the other 17 lithographs that he published in Tasmania Illustrated. He described one of his sketching trips as follows:

`While my companions pursued their course I dismounted, tied my horse to a tree, and deviating a little from our track, reached a very pretty cascade, the position of which had been previously indicated to me, and which in a quarter of an hour was figuring among my sketches.1

He had just moved to Hobart, after living in Sydney for four years, where he had sketched that town and published a volume of 15 lithographs, Sydney Illustrated (1844). Prout made a successful career out of journeyman sketching, but he was much more than a topographer; he interpreted the scene freely, creating picturesque effects and capturing light and colour, air and space.

He was a popular teacher and lecturer in Hobart and members of the local community bought his lithographs. But Prout’s stay in Australia was brief, as he always retained an interest in Britain and achieving success there. He returned to London in 1948 and spent the next 20 years sketching the European countryside.

Anne Gray

1 John Skinner Prout, ‘The Sketcher in Tasmania’, Once a Week, vol.6, 1 March 1862, Chapter 1 pp.276

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