Peter H. Marshall gives Floor Talk about his Macquarie series of works at Bathurst Regional Art Gallery





22nd MAY 2010


This series of works are my attempts at creating a sense of how the past lives on in the present. The past, in this case, is the colony of New South Wales during the early 1800’s, as Governor Lachlan and Elizabeth Macquarie would have known it. The present is represented by young women of today who are descendents or relatives of colonial settlers and convicts sent to the colony during Macquarie’s time. My Portraits of these women are superimposed onto my interpretations of the colonial art that was created by artists also living and working in the colony during the years the Macquarie’s were there…that is, 1810 to 1822.

It’s important to note that at no point have I attempted to portray these young women as if they’re actually there in the colonial landscape, they’re superimposed onto the landscape, so the landscapes have become historic backdrops to the contemporary portraits.

One way to achieve this was to place the models in a different light to that which is in the background image. In one case, in the painting titled ‘Correa Wilson and a view of Sydney from the North shore in 1822’, the direction of the light in the background is actually opposite to that on the model. This creates a sort of paradox and places the model outside the space of the actual landscape depicted.

She’s breathing different air to that which is in the landscape behind her, and although she’s feeling the same sun on her face, it’s not just from another time of day… it’s from another time in History.

Also, the realism of the portraits superimposed onto the stylised colonial images, heavily influenced by 18th century European schools of art, create another kind of separation. But at the same time the landscape images and the young women have been carefully chosen to complement one-another. An example, are the curls of Correa Wilson’s hair complementing the shapes of Joseph Lycett’s trees and foliage, or the curve of a neck echoing the full sail of a ship… or a breaking wave in the harbour.

So… the portraits, all of women with colonial heritage, are the living links to the historic landscapes behind them. The landscape as it was recorded during the Macquarie years, and not only how the Macquarie’s would have known it, but also how the young women’s ancestors would have known it…

I’ve chosen a couple of pictures in particular to talk more about …the first one is the drawing titled… ‘Freya Blackwood and a North- East view of the town of Sydney in 1812’. The background image is interpreted from a two-part panorama of Sydney from Bennelong Point, engraved by the convict Philip Slaeger after original drawings by John Eyre. It was issued in March 1812. There are only two copies known to exist, one with a Macquarie provenance.

The view is taken from the West side of Bennelong Point, which was originally called ‘Cattle Point’ because it’s where stock from the First Fleet were landed. It was later named after ‘Bennelong’, a member of the Guringai tribe of aboriginals who lived there. In 1817 Macquarie built a stone fort on the Point and, of course, called it ‘Fort Macquarie’… it was there until 1902, when it was demolished to make way for a tram shed. This in turn was demolished in 1959, to make way for the Sydney Opera House.

Another point of interest is Government House on the far left hand side with a part of the Governor’s Domain where the Botanic Gardens were later established in 1816.

Macquarie’s period of office marked a high point in the development of the Governors Domain. Mrs. Macquarie had an extensive grove of trees planted there, and designed a foreshore road with bridges and culverts according to the principles of Humphrey Repton, the last great English landscape designer of the 18th century. Also created under Mrs. Macquarie’s direction, were the Botanic Gardens, first planted with a mixture of native and exotic plants, fruit trees, shrubs and bulbs.

She’s also said to have carried Iris bulbs…then known as ‘Flag Lillies’…with her on tours to outlying districts and given them to the isolated settlers.

By the 1820’s, the Sydney Botanic Gardens was the centre of a flourishing plant exchange network with Botanic gardens around the world. The Glasgow Botanic garden was one that helped enrich the Sydney gardens.

On the right hand side of the picture is a tower shaped building, which is St. Phillips Church. It’s not the original St. Phillips though, the original was built by the Rev Richard Johnson and the first Christian service held in a building in the colony, took place there on the 25th August 1793. This building was made from wattle and daub with a thatched roof and burnt down in 1798. The St. Phillips we see in this picture is the stone building that Governor Phillip King had built….and it was opened in 1810, the year Macquarie became Governor. The site where it stood was called ‘Church Hill’ which is now ‘Lang Park’, just across the road from the present church.

The second picture with some interesting landmarks is the painting titled ‘Correa Wilson and a view of Sydney from the North Shore in 1822’. The background of this picture is from a coloured lithograph based upon a drawing by Joseph Lycett, which he made prior to his departure from the colony in 1822… the same year that the Macquarie’s left Australia.

On the far left hand side of the picture are the Government Stables built by Macquarie in 1816. This building is now the Conservatorium of Music. Next to the stables is John Palmers windmill and the stone building on the foreshore is Fort Macquarie on Bennelong Point, now the site of the Sydney Opera House…as I mentioned earlier.

To the right, (in the original engraving), you’ll see again, St. Phillips Church, and a little further on another two Windmills…the second Government Windmill, and the third Government Windmill. Windmill Hill’, now called ‘Observatory Hill’, was one of the highest natural points around Sydney cove, and was an obvious place for a windmill… however; by 1806 the windmill there had been replaced by larger ones elsewhere.

The second windmill built in Sydney, (which is the second government windmill in this picture), was called the ‘Military Windmill’…it was given to the troops of the 46th regiment for their use in 1814, although it later reverted back to public use.

A third windmill was later erected on the same ridge, in an area appropriately named ‘Millers Point’. Other ridges in the early settlement were also suitable for windmills, and on the other side of the cove, where Macquarie Street now runs, another batch of three windmills were built, one of these was John Palmers Mill…which is the one shown on the left hand side of the painting.

John Palmer arrived in NSW with the First Fleet in 1788 as purser of Governor Phillip’s Flagship ‘Sirius’.  By 1793 Palmer had decided to settle in New South Wales, and in September 1796 he left for England in the Britannia, returning in November 1800 in the Porpoise with his wife and children, two sisters, and a brother. In 1793 he was granted 100 acres at the head of Garden Island Cove, then known as Palmer’s Cove. Here, in an extensive orchard, Palmer built Woolloomooloo Farm, where the Palmers lived and entertained the first rank of colonial society. Palmer’s windmill was on the margin of the Governors Domain. By 1809 there were seven windmills operating in Sydney Town, and more were gradually built in the following decades.

John Macarthur also built a windmill at Pyrmont, but it couldn’t compete with the bigger mills and it soon slipped into folklore as haunted….in fact it was known as ‘The Haunted Mill of Cockle Bay’, Cockle Bay, by the way, is now called ‘Darling Harbour.’

Macarthur’s mill is shown on the left hand side in another one of my paintings, titled ‘Claire Miller and a South View of Sydney from Surry Hills in 1819’. Also, seen to the right of Macarthur’s mill in this painting, is ‘Darling Island’….this little island was levelled and joined to the mainland in the late 1840’s.

The last picture I’ve chosen to talk about is titled, ‘Ciska White with a view of the cove from Dawes Point Battery in 1818’. ‘Dawes Point Battery’, was a fortification built in 1791. The site had previously been used as a cemetery for prisoners that were executed at Sydney gaol. The Fort was expanded substantially in 1819 when Governor Macquarie ordered the convict architect Francis Greenway to design and construct a Fort at Dawes point. Most of the fort was demolished in 1925 to make way for the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Today, the site of the Fort is located adjacent to the South pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

In my drawing, you’ll see a view which includes Government House in the Governors Domain and the newly established Botanic Gardens, then only two years old. Also higher on the ridge, there’s four windmills, some of these I mentioned earlier, the one on the far left of the picture is John Palmers Mill.

The model in this drawing is Ciska White; she’s a cousin of Captain John Piper. Piper arrived in Sydney in February 1792… he was an immediate social success and became a close family friend of John Macarthur. In 1816 he was granted 190 acres of land on Eliza Point, now Point Piper, for the site of his official residence. Here he built Henrietta Villa at the cost of £10,000… It was completed in 1822. Besides Point Piper he eventually owned property at Vaucluse, Woollahra, Rose Bay, Neutral Bay, and Botany Bay… an acre of land in George Street and a farm at Petersham, Bathurst, and Van Diemen’s Land.  However, he wasn’t a good business man, and most of his property had to be sold. In 1827 he tried to drown himself, but was rescued.

Piper was also a close friend of Governor Macquarie, who in 1819 made him a magistrate, and in 1825 he was chairman of directors of the Bank of New South Wales. He retired with his family to his Bathurst property, ‘Alloway Bank’ around 1828.

Ciska’s other colonial ancestors were Thomas and Elizabeth Hawkins…they owned the property ‘Blackdown’, which was the neighbouring property to John Piper’s at Bathurst. Thomas Hawkins is known to have produced the first wine, west of the Blue Mountains. Elizabeth Hawkins’ account of her and her family’s adventure, in a letter to her sister, dated 7th of May 1822, is a valuable record of her experiences of the first family of ‘gentlefolk’ to make the dramatic journey of 137 miles over the Blue Mountains to Bathurst where they settled.


Peter H. Marshall



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