Building the Harbour Bridge I, beginnings
29 Jul 1881 - 15 May 1967
Jessie Traill’s Building the Harbour Bridge series is her most significant achievement as an artist, and a remarkable record of what was then the largest and most ambitious engineering project in Australian history.
Traill travelled from Melbourne to Sydney regularly between 1927 and 1932 to document the progress of the workers in
drawings and watercolours, leading to this six-etching series and two aquatints of the bridge. She was given special access to the
top deck to observe the workers, and felt herself an intrinsic part of the great national project. She wrote in 1929:
What we see is a solid mass of concrete and intricate lacework of iron made more intricate by the play of light and shade;
something that giants might play with as a child would with his Meccano set… In years to come when we dash over the Bridge
in our taxi or take a “walk” across (which will be about a mile) to see our Harbour, we, who have watched it progress and sketched
or photographed its parts, will feel with these workmen a sort of pride of possession, and it will be OUR BRIDGE too.
Building the Harbour Bridge No. I
etching, foul bite, printed in brown ink with plate tone on cream wove paper
24.5 x 36.4 cm platemark; 32.9 x 45.5 cm sheet (irreg.)
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.r. beneath platemark, pencil "JCA Traill 1927.".
Not on display
© Reproduced with permission
Where the work was made
Shown in 5 exhibitions
Harbour hymns, city songs: visions of Sydney from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 13 Jan 1990–11 Mar 1990
Metropolis, Museum of Sydney, Sydney, 18 Dec 1999–02 Apr 2000
Bridging Sydney, Museum of Sydney, Sydney, 16 Dec 2006–29 Apr 2007
Stars in the river; the prints of Jessie Traill, National Gallery of Australia, Parkes, 16 Feb 2013–23 Jun 2013
Sydney Moderns, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 06 Jul 2013–07 Oct 2013
Referenced in 9 publications
Peter Emmett, Metropolis, Glebe, 1999. Exhibition guide, brochure format.
Jane Hylton, Modern Australian women: paintings & prints 1925-1945, Adelaide, 2000, 24 (colour illus.), 127. titled 'Building the Harbour Bridge No. I'; Collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia
Caroline Mackaness, Bridging Sydney, Sydney, 2006, 165 (colour illus.).
Denise Mimmocchi, Sydney moderns: art for a new world, 'Icon of modernity: the Sydney Harbour Bridge', pg. 154-163, Sydney, 2013, 160 (colour illus.), 316, 324.
Macushla Robinson, Stars in the river: the prints of Jessie Traill, 'Building the Harbour Bridge series', pg. 52-61, Canberra, 2013, 9, 56 (illus.), 57, 107, 112 (illus.), 146, 171 (illus.). NOTE: The text on page 107 speaks generally about Traill's Sydney Harbour Bridge works. 'Building the Harbour Bridge' series is specifically discussed on pages 56-60.
Anne Ryan, Australian etchings and engravings 1880s–1930s from the Gallery's collection, Sydney, 2007, 47, 47 (colour illus.). cat.no. 65
John Slater, Through artists' eyes: Australian suburbs and their cities 1919-1945, 'Continuity and change', pg. 35-70, Melbourne, 2004, 59, 60 (illus.), 63. illus.no. 42
Susannah Smith, Look, 'Women's work: their diverse and significant contribution to the modernist art scene', pg. 13-15, Sydney, Aug 2013, 14.
Kay Vernon, Harbour hymns, city songs: visions of Sydney from the collection, Sydney, 1990. cat.no. 37