John Paine’s photograph of the Grand Arch at Jenolan Caves in New South Wales represents a conjuncture of two important representational modes, both of which helped shape 19th-century art: the picturesque and the sublime. The caves, first discovered in 1838, saw a massive increase in tourism as the result of rail improvements. Picturesque postcard views, sold as tourist mementos, were produced to service this market. Paine’s photograph, however, is clearly more than this. The vast cave and the small figure bathed in light on the rocky outcrop evoke the tradition of the sublime, the central motifs of which were the colossal and the powerful, often represented by mountains or storms. The subject of the artwork – and indeed the viewer – was not to be instructed or pleased, but overcome and transformed. While key elements of this aesthetic are present here, Paine’s ‘Grand Arch, looking east’ still illustrates a landscape tamed and one in which social order is subtly replicated: gentlemen at the top, tradesmen in the middle and women-folk at the bottom.
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007
14.8 x 20.1 cm image/sheet
Signature & date
Signed l.l. image, [inscribed on glass plate negative] "J.P.". Not dated.
Not on display
Shown in 3 exhibitions
Masterpieces of Australian Photography, Josef Lebovic Gallery, Kensington, 24 Jun 1989–22 Jul 1989
Arcadia: nineteenth century Australian photography, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 02 Oct 1998–13 Dec 1998
Shaded, Dubbo Regional Art Gallery, Dubbo, 28 Aug 2017–03 Dec 2017
Referenced in 4 publications
Robyn Donohue, Look, 'Arcadia: Nineteenth Century Australian Photography', pg. 22-23, Heidelberg, Oct 1998, 23 (illus.).
Steven Miller, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'In every house, and in every tent', pg.33-51, Sydney, 2007, 46 (illus.).
Arcadia - nineteenth century Australian photography, Sydney, 1998. no catalogue numbers
Masterpieces of Australian Photography, Sydney, 1989, 110, 111 (illus.). cat.no. 195