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The Tank Stream, Sydney

(circa 1842)


John Skinner Prout

England, Australia

19 Dec 1805 - 29 Sep 1876


The original Tank Stream was early Sydney's main water supply. The stream ran from the western slopes of Hyde Park, forming a channel on the south side of King Street, crossing the site of Martin Place and the former General Post Office building and running by way of Ash, Pitt and Hamilton streets down to Sydney Cove. A plaque now in the footpath at the corner of Tank Stream Way and Bridge Street marks where the original Tank Stream flowed. Quoting Watkin Tench, a captain of the early colony's marines, it reads:

"Into the head of the cove, on which our establishment is fixed, runs a small stream of fresh water, which serves to divide the adjacent country to a little distance, in the direction of north and south".

The Gallery also has a smaller version or preliminary study of the subject, purchased at auction in Sydney in 1965; another version of 'The Tank Stream' is in the State Library of New South Wales, Dixson collection. A steel engraving by Thomas Heawood (active 1850-79) after Skinner Prout, is included in Edwin Carton Booth's 'Australia illustrated' (1873-76) opposite pg. 100.

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


Other Titles

Old Pitt Street, Sydney

The tank stream, Pitt St., Sydney

Tank Stream


(circa 1842)

Media category


Materials used

pencil, watercolour, opaque white highlights


25.5 x 37.5 cm

Signature & date

Signed l.l. corner, brown watercolour "SKINNER PROUT -". Not dated.


Purchased 1913


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

John Skinner Prout

Works in the collection


Shown in 7 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 14 publications


Tony Brown., Art and Australia (Vol. 22, No. 4), 'John Skinner Prout, a colonial artist', Sydney, 1985, 520 (illus.).

Colonial painters, 1788-1880, Sydney, 1971.

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Works on Paper', pg. 182-197, Sydney, 1999, 184 (colour illus.).

150 years of Australian art, Sydney, 1938. 678 [Gallery No. 6]; titled 'The tank stream, Pitt St., Sydney'.

Bernard Smith, 100 years of Australian painting, 'Foreword', pg. 2-4, Sydney, 1948, 12. watercolours 1; titled 'Tank stream'

Art in Australia [series 3, no. 8], Sydney, Jun 1924, (illus.).

Bernard William Smith, Place, taste and tradition: A study of Australian art since 1788, Sydney, 1945, 85 (illus.). 34; titled 'Old Pitt Street, Sydney'

One hundred years of Australian art, Sydney, circa 1945. 4

100 masterpieces of Australian painting, Adelaide, 1973, opposite pg. 14 (colour illus.).

Tank Stream: Sydney's first water supply, Sydney, circa 2004, (colour illus.). Six-page pamphlet produced by Sydney Water about the history of Sydney's Tank Stream.

Nineteenth century Australian watercolours from the collection, Sydney, 1991. 60

Harbour hymns, city songs: visions of Sydney from the collection, Sydney, 1990. 28

Skinner Prout in Australia 1840-48, Hobart, 1986, 26-27. 7

19th century Australian watercolours, drawing and pastels from the Gallery's collection, Sydney, 2005, 40, 41 (colour illus.).