One of the most significant nineteenth century Australian artists, Conrad Martens was Sydney's pre-eminent landscape painter from his arrival in 1835 until his death, some forty years later. Born in London, he studied with Copley Fielding (1787-1855) and in 1833 joined the scientific survey expedition of the 'Beagle' in Montevideo, South America, replacing its ailing official artist Augustus Earle (1793-1838). The naturalist on board was Charles Darwin (1809-82); he and Martens became friends and later corresponded. Martens left the ship in Valparaiso in 1834 and made his way to Sydney via New Zealand.
Sydney Harbour and its environs became his favourite subject, obvious from his many drawings, watercolours and oils. Within a year of his arrival he also painted in the Illawarra and Blue Mountains, later travelling further afield to Brisbane and the Darling Downs, New England and Hunter regions of NSW. Martens attracted patrons from the colony's elite, undertaking commissions and taking students. In order to secure himself financially late in life, he became Deputy Parliamentary Librarian in 1862. This is one of 24 watercolours by him in the AGNSW's collection.
excerpt from Hendrik Kolenberg, Anne Ryan and Patricia James, '19th century Australian watercolours, drawings & pastels in the Gallery's collection', Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2005
watercolour, scraping out, gum
33.0 x 48.2 cm sheet; 47.0 x 61.3 cm sight edge; 52.6 x 66.9 x 2.7 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.r., brown watercolour "C Martens/ 1836".
Gift of the Corry Family 1946
Not on display
Shown in 4 exhibitions
Australian watercolours from the National Art Gallery collection 1836-1946, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 24 May 1946–Jun 1946
Loan exhibition from the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Albury Art Gallery Society, 19 Jun 1967–25 Jun 1967
(Royal visit 1970), Government House, Mar 1970–Apr 1970
19th century Australian watercolours, drawings & pastels, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 06 Apr 2005–24 Jul 2005
Referenced in 2 publications
Hendrik Kolenberg, Anne Ryan and Patricia James, 19th century Australian watercolours, drawing and pastels from the Gallery's collection, Sydney, 2005, 28, 29 (colour illus.).
Trustees of the National Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australian watercolours from the National Art Gallery collection 1836 to 1946, Sydney, 1946, 3, 8. cat.no. 1