Go back in time to a morning on the Brisbane river

 

The work by Vida Lahey (1882-1968), one of Queensland’s best loved artists is widely admired for her watercolour floral studies, however in Morning light, Brisbane River c.1925-30 Lahey has beautifully captured the effects of light on water, and also provides us with a little mystery which you may be able to solve for us, let us know what you think in comments below.

Morning light, Brisbane River shows the artist’s strength in painting landscape and her particular skill in depicting light on water. The painting was originally identified as Motor launch and dated to the 1930s, but removing its frame revealed a sticker where the work had been displayed in October 1930, giving Morning light, Brisbane River as the title.

Bright light, excellent tone values, and joyous colour are characteristics of Miss Vida Lahey’s exhibition at the Fine Art Society’s gallery, Exhibition street, Melbourne. Occasionally one or two of Miss Lahey’s works have attracted notice, but this is the first time we have seen her latest work in the mass. Painting against the light has an attraction for this artist, and some very successful results are achieved… There are also some brilliant sketches, of which “Morning Light, Brisbane River” is a gem… Miss Lahey is a Queenslander. She has caught to perfection the semi-tropical light of Brisbane.1

Vida Lahey ‘Morning light, Brisbane River’

Vida Lahey, Australia 1882-1968 / Morning light, Brisbane River c.1925-30 / Oil on three-ply board / 19 x 19cm (sight) / Purchased 2012. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © QAGOMA

Although the play of light in the sky and on the water is the principal subject of Morning light, Brisbane River, we are always interested to discover the exact location of a painter’s vantage point. The only clue is the white, red-roofed building in the upper right of the picture. It suggests a Spanish mission revival-style church, and due to its proximity to the river, Our Lady of Victories Catholic Church on Roche Street, Bowen Hills, is a likely candidate. Designed by prolific Brisbane architects TR Hall and GG Prentice during the 1920s and built as a memorial to the Catholic soldiers who served in World War One, the church would have been a fresh subject for Lahey’s brush. If this is the correct building, she was likely painting across the river from Newstead House, Hamilton.

It has also been suggested that the building is the old Sea Foam Flour Mill on Stanley Street, South Brisbane. It was demolished in 1981 to make way for the redevelopment of the precinct, which later became the site for Expo ’88. By the time of its destruction, the mill’s painted surfaces had long since eroded, making the pristine red and white that Lahey depicts a distant recollection indeed. If this is the case,  her view would have been from the city side of the river, downstream from the Victoria Bridge.

However, the mystery might somewhat be solved with the uncovering of this review from 1934, do you agree?

The Brisbane River presents infinite opportunities to the artist who seeks to depict with line and brush its varying moods, and the inspiration which Brisbane artists have found in the calm, mirrored beauty of the upper reaches of the river and in its crowded lanes of shipping is given satisfying expression in a splendid collection of etchings, water colours, and oils at the Gainsborough Gallery, Bank of New South Wales Chambers. The exhibition includes the works of such well-known artists as Vida Lahey… Each of them has seen the river from a different point of view, has succeeded in capturing a different impression and interpreting it in terms of colour and tone — an endeavour which constitutes the principal difference between the painting of a picture and the taking of a photograph.

The high quality of Miss Vida Lahey’s work is well known to the discerning public, and she has five happy river and riverside scenes, which are most satisfying in their treatment. The view of the Hamilton Reach is in excellent study in perspective and the contrasting blue of water and sky. In the foreground the rippling wake left by a motor launch, a receding speck in the distance, is admirably depicted.2

Glenn R Cooke is former Research Curator, Queensland Heritage,  QAGOMA

Endnote
1 ‘Art by Harold Herbert’, The Australasian (Melbourne, Victoria 1864-1946), 4 October 1930, p.15
2 ‘Brisbane river studies. Exhibition by local artists’, The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Queensland 1933-54), 3 May 1934, p.3

Our Lady of Victories Catholic Church

Our Lady of Victories Catholic Church at Bowen Hills c.1928 / Reproduced courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

View across the river toward Newstead House

Looking across the Brisbane River towards Newstead House c.1895 (in view, center right) / Reproduced courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

Sea Foam Flour Mill (Brisbane Milling)

Brisbane Milling Company Limited (Sea Foam Flour Mill) Stanley Street South Brisbane / Reproduced courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane
South Brisbane Reach of the Brisbane River c.1928, opposite the Brisbane Milling Company / Reproduced courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

View across the river toward Sea Foam Flour Mill (Brisbane Milling)

South Brisbane Reach of the Brisbane River with the Brisbane Milling Company (in view, right) / Reproduced courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

Featured image detail: Vida Lahey Morning light, Brisbane River c.1925-30
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Margaret Olley: The subject is wildflowers

 

Painting flowers had long been considered a feminine subject. With the examples of Marian Ellis Rowan (1848–1922) and Margaret Preston (1875 1963) behind her, Margaret Olley (1923–2011) can be seen as part of the continuing tradition. But she was more than that. Still life and interior painting were significant genres during the 1930s for both male and female painters and despite the impact of abstraction in its various manifestations after World War 2, Olley single-handedly sustained this tradition through the remainder of the 20th century.

Marian Ellis Rowan

Marian Ellis Rowan, Australia 1848-1922 / Eugenia c.1891 / Watercolour and gouache on paper / 52 x 36cm / Purchased 2011 with funds from Roger and Marjorie Morton through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

Margaret Preston

Margaret Preston, Australia 1875-1963 / Waratah group 1925 / Woodcut, hand-coloured on thin laid Oriental paper / 24.6 x 24.7cm (comp.) / Gift of the Half Dozen Group of Artists 1942 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Margaret Preston /Licensed by Copyright Agency

Margaret Olley

Australian native flowers were a prominent feature in the output of both Ellis Rowan at the turn of the 20th century and Margaret Preston during the 1930s but in the hands of Preston the sculptural form of Australian natives took on a distinctly modernist character. Olley was aware of native flora. She incorporated small dried arrangements in Portrait in the mirror 1948 but it was not until the early 1970s that Australian wildflowers began to be included in her repertoire ― and she always designated them wildflowers, not native flowers.

DELVE DEEPER: Garden Flowers

RELATED: Margaret Olley

Portrait in the mirror

Margaret Olley, Australia 1923-2011 / Portrait in the mirror 1948 / Oil on board / 68.3 x 84.8cm / Gift of the artist 2001 / Collection: Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney / © Margaret Olley Art Trust

Her first identified painting of wildflowers in the Johnstone Gallery exhibition of 1970 depicted wildflowers from the wallum country on southern Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. She was probably aware of the activities of Kathleen McArthur who had been promoting the preservation of the region’s floristically-rich coastal heath and swamps. The exhibition also included two paintings entitled Hawkesbury wildflowers which were probably gathered by Olley on excursions outside the city. By this time and following the success of her exhibition at the Von Bertouch Gallery, Newcastle, in 1969, Olley brought a pair of timber houses there.

Hawkesbury wildflowers and pears

Margaret Olley / Hawkesbury wildflowers and pears c.1973 / Oil on board / 101.5 x 76cm / Purchased with the assistance of the Members Acquisition Fund 2011 / Collection: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra / © Margaret Olley Art Trust

The interiors of David Strachan’s home in Sydney’s Paddington became a major focus of her ‘Homage’ exhibition at the Johnstone Gallery in 1972. Strachan had died in a car accident at Yass on 23 November 1970 and Olley, who lived nearby, gained permission to use Strachan’s house as her studio. A significant series of Hawkesbury wildflowers (largely sere and desiccated) with other still-life elements was painted there.

At David Strachan’s house

Margaret Olley / At David Strachan’s house 1973 / Oil on board / 107.5 x 122cm / Private collection / © Margaret Olley Art Trust

In succeeding years Olley exhibited wildflower paintings sporadically when she either visited or was presented with bouquets from locations around Sydney, as titles of her paintings identify: Mt White 1976; Little Hartley 1976; Gosford 1979; Mt White 1982; Palm Beach 1989; French’s Forest and Pittwater 1990 and Catherine Hill 1991. During this time freshly gathered Hawkesbury wildflowers also made their appearance.

White still life II

Margaret Olley / White still life II 1977 / Oil on board / 60 x 74.5cm / Private collection / © Margaret Olley Art Trust

Flannel flowers (Actinotus helianthi), a common species of flowering plant which are native to the bushland surrounding Sydney, were her favourite wildflower. White still life II depicts three white jugs, two of which contain flannel flowers. Apart from making flannel flowers the focus in several works, they featured prominently in groupings with other wildflowers. Red bottle-brushes and dried everlasting daisies appear in several self portraits and also as independent paintings.

Banksia I

Margaret Olley / Banksia I 1970 / Oil on hardboard / 122 x 99cm / Gift of William Bowmore, OBE 1976 / Collection: Maitland Regional Art Gallery / © Margaret Olley Art Trust

Gum blossoms

Margaret Olley / Gum blossoms 2007 / Oil on board / 76 x 76cm / Private collection / © Margaret Olley Art Trust

Olley’s appreciation of the sculptural forms of flowers such of the golden chalices of the solandra and the open white blossoms of the magnolias that attracted her in the 1960s reasserted itself in her depiction of the native Banksia in 1970. Over the years, however, its South African cousin the protea appears in even more paintings because of its successful development in the cut-flower market.

Edited extract: Cooke, Glenn R., ‘Margaret Olley: the subject is flowers’ in Australian Garden History, Melbourne, July 2019, pps 5-9

Art and social historian Glenn R Cooke was a curator at the Queensland Art Gallery for 32 years. He is a frequent contributor to Australia Garden History and is producing the Olley Project, an illustrated database of Olley’s oeuvre. The project is sponsored by the Margaret Olley Art Trust.

Know Brisbane through the QAGOMA Collection / Delve into our Queensland Stories / Read more about Australian Art / Subscribe to QAGOMA YouTube to go behind-the-scenes

‘A Generous Life’ at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) 15 June – 13 October 2019 examined the legacy and influence of much-loved Australian artist Margaret Olley, who spent a formative part of her career in Brisbane. A charismatic character, whose life was immersed in art, she exerted a lasting impact on many artists as a mentor, friend and muse.

Featured image detail: Margaret Olley Gum blossoms 2007
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Margaret Olley: The subject is garden flowers

 

Margaret Olley, towards the end of her life, became one of the most affectionately regarded of Australian artists. Her still life and interior paintings attracted wide appreciation by the public. Although she produced landscapes and townscapes in the early part of her career, interiors and flower studies effectively dominated her production.

Olley’s flower paintings in the 1960s are distinguished by the exuberant mixed bunches she gathered from friends and neighbours including annuals, bulbs, shrubs and climbing lily appropriate to the season as exemplified in Susan with flowers 1962. The flowers depicted focus on intense red hippeastrums with branches of red-flowered poinsettia and hibiscus and sprays of pink watsonias, oleanders and vinca.

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Susan with flowers

Margaret Olley, Australia 1923-2011 / Susan with flowers 1962 / Oil on canvas / 127.4 x 102.3cm / Gift of Finney Isles and Co. Ltd. 1964 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © QAGOMA

Olley was perfectly democratic in the flowers she depicted in her works, which included the so-called Japanese sunflower, Tithonia diversifolia,  a common weed in Brisbane’s vacant lots which originally hails from Mexico. In the 1980s she painted the yellow flowered Crotolaria retusa, although an attractive garden plant its seed germinate far too readily.

Of course she did buy flowers: violets were sourced from Mt Tamborine in the Gold Coast hinterland, one of the major flower-growing areas outside Brisbane. Another painting of an Aboriginal girl, Daphne and still life 1964 depicts the subject with a massed display of ranunculus which would have stripped a large suburban garden. Ranunculuses were, in fact, to remain a favoured springtime subject for Olley.

The wonderful blue of Queensland tropical waterlilies which would have been a rare commodity in any Brisbane garden was the subject of one of her works in 1962.

DELVE DEEPER: Wildflowers

RELATED: Margaret Olley

Daphne and still life

Margaret Olley / Daphne and still life 1964 / Oil on board / 75 x 101cm / George Daughtrey Bequest Fund, 1964 / Collection: QUT Art Museum, Brisbane / © Margaret Olley Art Trust

Water lilies

Margaret Olley / Water lilies 1962 / Oil on board / 88.4 x 113.5cm / Private collection / © Estate of Margaret Olley
Installation view ‘Margaret Olley: A Generous Life’ featuring Water lilies 1962

When Olley settled permanently in Sydney her subjects were principally the flowers she purchased from florists and markets. Olley’s favourite garden flowers were amongst the most modest, such as the annuals — cornflowers, marigolds, poppies and wallflowers — which appeared in her exhibitions from the early 1960s.

Cornflowers appear in the titles of over 100 of her paintings and marigolds in over 80 in its small flowered (French) and large flowered (African) forms; some paintings combine both flowers. Apparently Ben Quilty, Olley’s protégé and friend, would regularly bring her bouquets of cornflowers but unlike Kevin’s cornflowers 1993, I have not been able to discover a work so linked by the title.

RELATED: Ben Quilty and Margaret Olley

Installation view ‘Margaret Olley: A Generous Life’ / Above right: Margaret Olley’s Marigolds and limes c.1975 / Oil on board / 76 x 122cm / Private collection / © Margaret Olley Art Trust
Margaret Olley / Cornflowers and figs 1990 / Oil on board / 67.5 x 90cm / Private collection / © Estate of Margaret Olley
Installation views ‘Margaret Olley: A Generous Life’ / Above right: Margaret Olley’s Kevin’s cornflowers 1993 / Oil on board / 76 x 61cm / Private collection / © Margaret Olley Art Trust

Carnations never appear in her works as they had dropped out of favour, although in the 1980s sweet william (a relative of the carnation) became a regular subject. Surprisingly the rose, the ‘queen of flowers’, appears in only a handful of works: as briar roses in 1966, spent and drooping in Last of the roses 1979, and a bunch of bright yellow roses in colourful contrast to bright blue Persian pottery in 1985.

Edited extract: Cooke, Glenn R., ‘Margaret Olley: the subject is flowers’ in Australian Garden History, Melbourne, July 2019, pps 5-9

Art and social historian Glenn R Cooke was a curator at the Queensland Art Gallery for 32 years. He is a frequent contributor to Australia Garden History and is producing the Olley Project, an illustrated database of Olley’s oeuvre. The project is sponsored by the Margaret Olley Art Trust.

Margaret Olley / Calendulas 1964 / Oil on board / 90 x 114cm / Private collection / © Margaret Olley Art Trust

Know Brisbane through the QAGOMA Collection / Delve into our Queensland Stories / Read more about Australian Art / Subscribe to QAGOMA YouTube to go behind-the-scenes

‘A Generous Life’ was at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) 15 June – 13 October 2019 and examined the legacy and influence of much-loved Australian artist Margaret Olley, who spent a formative part of her career in Brisbane. A charismatic character, whose life was immersed in art, she exerted a lasting impact on many artists as a mentor, friend and muse.

Feature image detail: Margaret Olley Daphne and still life 1964
#Margaret Olley #QAGOMA

LJ Harvey and his school

 

Lewis Jarvis (LJ) Harvey (1871−1949) was the single greatest influence on visual culture in Queensland in the first half of the twentieth century, this important artist and teacher, and his students, highlights why Harvey was such an inspirational figure.

Harvey was a distinguished modeller, woodcarver, potter and teacher active in Queensland during the first half of the twentieth century. While Harvey was a prominent figure within Queensland’s Arts and Crafts Movement, his work was nationally significant, and he inspired the largest school of art pottery in Australia.

LJ Harvey, late 1920s
LJ Harvey, Australia 1871-1949 / Vase: The Rock 1930 / Earthenware, modelled with figure of a mermaid beside a rock pool with octopus, starfish and crab. Brown glaze with colours / 19.5 x 22 x 17.5cm / Gift of the Reverends David and Bruce Noble in memory of their mother Elsie Harvey Noble through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2008 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

Harvey trained under JA Clarke (1840−90) at the Brisbane Technical College and taught at that institution (and the subsequent Central Technical College) from 1902 until his retirement in 1937, during which time he trained generations of students. He then established his own craft school in Horsham House in Adelaide Street, where he taught until his death — dramatically enough, during a meeting of the Royal Queensland Art Society.

While Harvey considered himself a sculptor, and is appreciated locally for his woodcarving, his claim to national significance rests on the pottery course that he established at the Central Technical College, initiating the first classes in August 1916. These developed primarily as popular hobby classes in the 1920s and 1930s. Harvey supplied a series of structured exercises which, with their commonality of form, decoration and glazing, established the most distinctive school of art pottery in Australia, of which the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art has an extensive collection.1

LJ Harvey, Australia 1871-1949 / (Screen with kookaburras and landscape) 1931 / Carved Queensland beech panel with supports in silky oak / 108.5 x 42.8 x 30.5cm / Purchased 1988 with the assistance of the Reverends David and Bruce Noble / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art
LJ Harvey and his school on display (featuring Screen with kookaburras and landscape) at the Queensland Art Gallery

The artistically conservative culture of Queensland, where modernist ideas were slow to penetrate, meant that Harvey developed a distinct regional style based on the use of neo-Renaissance motifs and handbuilding techniques. Harvey subsequently gave private classes, as did many of his students, and the influence of his techniques and designs are spread over more than three decades.

Harvey’s most consistent potters (some for periods of up to 25 years) were the women who came to his classes as a social outing. The catalogue to the 1983 Queensland Art Gallery exhibition ‘LJ Harvey and his School’ includes brief biographies of 48 women who were Harvey’s students, but with further research it became clear that the exhibition had only skimmed the surface, we now have a record of some 1000 people who were influenced by Harvey’s example, mostly from Brisbane, but also from regional Queensland and interstate.

LJ Harvey, Australia 1871-1949 / Jackie tobacco c.1930 / Earthenware, modelled kookaburra, with detachable head, on pedestal, in the style of Martin Bros, England. Glazed naturalistic colours and integral carved wood base / 24 x 12 x 10.5cm (complete); base: 19.5 x 10 x 10.5cm; lid: 6 x 11 x 4.5cm / Gift of the Reverends David and Bruce Noble in memory of their mother Elsie Harvey Noble through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2008 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art
LJ Harvey, Australia 1871-1949 / Vase: (The fox and the grapes) c.1920s / Slab built white clay body of swelling square profile, dipped brown clay and carved. Blue-green glaze / 21 x 9 x 9cm / Gift of the Reverends David and Bruce Noble 1992 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

The difficulty with attributing Harvey School works, apart from the signatures, is the consistent quality of execution and the uniformity of style — Harvey’s thorough teaching technique makes it difficult to identify individual makers. While the individual accomplishment of the pottery is considerably varied, the number of potters identified demonstrates, unequivocally, how thoroughly Harvey School ceramics permeated the social and cultural fabric of Queensland in the first part of the twentieth century. Individual potters include Alice and Sarah Ellen (Nell) Bott, Evelyn Buggy, Bessie Devereux, Val McMaster, Daisy Nosworthy, the decorator Martin Moroney, and the sculptor Daphne Mayo, renowned for her 1930 tympanum above Brisbane City Hall, and her 1932 Queensland Women’s War Memorial at Anzac Square.2

Although Harvey’s contribution has been largely hidden from public view in thousands of Queensland homes, he was the single greatest influence on visual culture in Queensland in the first half (and arguably the whole) of the twentieth century and a figure of national significance.

Glenn R Cooke is former Research Curator (Queensland Heritage), QAGOMA

Endnotes
1 The exhibition ‘LJ Harvey and His Times’ in 2009 showcased the donation of Harvey works by his grandsons, the Reverends David and Bruce Noble.
2 The publication With Heart and Hand: Art Pottery in Queensland to 1950 includes a memory card with biographical details of the potters and listing all known monograms and initials.

Evelyn Buggy, Australia 1901-1984 / Dragon bowl 1940 / Earthenware, hand-built, flattened spherical bowl set on four scrolled feet. The rim decorated with a carved scale pattern and a modelled dragon with head overlapping the rim and extending around the body. Glazed green with the dragon in black / 21 x 28 x 25cm / Gift of Mrs S. Gould, the artist’s daughter 1985 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Estate of the artist
Nell Bott, Australia 1870-1943 / Vase: (art nouveau) 1924 / Earthenware, handbuilt with foliate motif applied with brown slip and blue-green glaze / 26 x 12cm (diam.) / Gift of Lorna Pirie through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 1999. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art
Elisabeth Monz, Australia 1908-1988 / Coffee set 1929 / Earthenware, hand-built tapering cylindrical shape with applied handle and spout. Carved decoration with pink glaze splashed sepia and blue / Coffeepot: 18 x 19 x 12cm; hot water pot: 13.5 x 16 x 11cm; jug: 13.5 x 14.5 x 10cm / Gift of the artist 1985 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Estate of the artist
Marjory Clark, Australia 1908-1996 / Covered jar 1929 / Earthenware, hand-built swelling white clay form with four prominent ridges terminating in points above the lip and continued on the lid. Running brown and ochre slips carved with a “crazy paving” design. Clear glaze / Base: 23 x 14 x 14cm; lid: 6 x 10.5cm; 26 x 14 x 14cm / Gift of the artist 1983 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Estate of the artist

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Featured image: Arts and Crafts Society of Queensland Exhibition, c.1933
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Anthony Alder’s ‘Heron’s home’

 

Once a prominent colonial Queensland artist, Anthony Alder (1838-1915) and his works had all but vanished from public memory until, in 2011, his descendants’ estate was offered to the State Library of Queensland. Here, we reintroduce you to one of his works in the QAGOMA Collection Heron’s home 1895.

 Heron’s home: Before Conservation

Before conservation / Anthony Alder, Australia 1838-1915 / Heron’s home 1895 / Oil on canvas / 102 x 82cm / Purchased 2011 with funds from the Estate of Jessica Ellis through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

Art history is a process of continually rediscovering the past and reinterpreting it for contemporary audiences. Alder is a significant Queensland colonial artist, apart from being the most prominent taxidermist in colonial Queensland, and widely admired for his dioramas when he entered employment with the Queensland Museum, he was also a painter of substance. Unfortunately, over the years, the appeal of his dioramas was forgotten and, apart from a major painting, Not game 1895, which was occasionally on view at the Museum, knowledge of his work also slipped into oblivion. 

The staff of the Queensland Museum, 1912. Standing third from right, Anthony Alder, taxidermist / Courtesy: Queensland Museum

Alder was born at Stroud, Gloucestershire and trained in the family’s taxidermy and casting business, Alder and Company, in Islington, London. He spent time working in Queensland from 1862 but returned to England on the death of his father in 1864; after the death of his mother in 1874, he returned and settled permanently in Queensland. Although he did not exhibit with the Queensland Art Society (est. 1887), Alder established a significant exhibition profile. He sought to emulate the work of ornithologist Silvester Diggles (1817–80) (Queensland’s most famous bird painter, who published Synopsis of the Birds of Australia in 1877) and produced grisaille watercolour sketches that were published from 1894 to 1900 in the Queenslander, the state’s most important weekly newspaper.

Painted for the Queenslander by Anthony Alder / Illustrated in the Christmas supplement of the Queenslander, December 8, 1906, p. 61 / Courtesy: State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

Alder also produced oil paintings and submitted several of these in what were essentially the first of the Queensland National Agricultural and Industrial Association (QNA) annual exhibitions. He received an award for Not game in the QNA of 1895, from where it was purchased by the state government for the Gallery but is now in the Queensland Museum’s collection, and was also awarded the prize at the same exhibition for Lincoln sheep, homeward Laddie (illustrated), also 1895, which depicts the renowned stud flock at ‘Glengallan’, just outside Warwick.

Anthony Alder Lincoln sheep, Homeward Laddie

Anthony Alder, Australia 1838-1915 / Lincoln sheep, Homeward Laddie 1895 / Oil on canvas / Collection: State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

A reassessment of Alder’s work was inspired when the work Lincoln sheep, homeward Laddie (illustrated) emerged from the collection of Alder’s descendants and was offered to the State Library of Queensland in 2011. The State Library has a special interest in ‘Glengallan’, as it holds the archive of the property which was donated by the widow of William Ball Slade’s eldest son, Oswald, in 1958.

At Slade’s time, the property was one of the showplaces of the Darling Downs; the homestead itself, a sandstone mansion built in 1867, was rescued from dereliction and restored as the Glengallan Homestead and Heritage Centre.

Slade called on Alder’s skills as a taxidermist, and this may have been the occasion for Alder to produce the work which, in a sense, is a record of the passing of the colonial squattocracy, as the property began to be broken up in 1895. Large-scale landscapes such as this are extremely rare in colonial Queensland.

Glengallan homestead

Photographer unknown / Glengallan homestead, From ‘Views of Queensland’ Photograph Album, c.1875 / Courtesy: State Library of Queensland, Brisbane
Photographer unknown / Front entrance of Glengallan homestead c.1894 / Courtesy: State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

In mid 2011, Dianne Byrne, the State Library’s Curator of Heritage Collections, advised the Gallery that Heron’s home was also available to a public collection. It was one of the two works Alder included in the 1897 Queensland International Exhibition (cat.95), and shared the exhibition with Josephine Muntz-Adam’s Care c.1893, the first Australian work purchased by the Queensland National Art Gallery.

Josephine Müntz-Adams Care

Josephine Müntz-Adams, Australia 1861-1949 / Care c.1893 / Oil on canvas on composition board / 83 x 69.3cm / Purchased 1898 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

Now restored, Heron’s home provides a marked counterpoint in detail and decorative appeal, and represents his skills in depicting natural history subjects — the area in which Alder forged his reputation.

The subject of this important painting is a pair of Nankeen night herons (Nycticorax caledonicus), which are named after the buff-coloured Nankeen cloth formerly produced in the Chinese city of Nanjing (Nanking). These herons are native to large parts of Australia and frequent well-vegetated wetlands, river margins and mangroves around Brisbane. Here, they are depicted in a beautifully rendered naturalistic riverine setting within a larger Queensland landscape.

Glen Cooke is former Research Curator, Queensland Heritage, QAGOMA

Heron’s home: After conservation

Jocelyn Evans, Conservator at QAGOMA restoring Herons Home
After conservation / Anthony Alder, Australia 1838-1915 / Heron’s home 1895 / Oil on canvas / 102 x 82cm / Purchased 2011 with funds from the Estate of Jessica Ellis through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

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Edmund Rosenstengel provided the benchmark of excellence in his field

 
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Edmund Rosenstengel (Designer) 1887–1962; Ed. Rosenstengel (Manufacturer) 1922–58 / Chest of drawers c.1934 / Queensland maple with hand carved details, Wedgwood plaque and metal fittings. Black Vitrolite glass top / Purchased 2012 with funds from Miss Valmai Pidgeon through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

Edmund Rosenstengel, the most highly regarded furniture maker in Brisbane from the 1920s to the 1950s, provided the benchmark of excellence in his field for several generations. This acquisition, purchased for the Collection with the generous assistance of Valmai Pidgeon, AM, is a piece that Rosenstengel made for himself.

Edmund Rosenstengel (1887–1962) was born in Toowoomba, where he was apprenticed in 1902 to Rosenstengel & Kleimeyer, his father’s cabinetmaking business. He was later to work in Sydney, Auckland, Vancouver, and the Grand Rapids in the United States, as well as in England and Europe, before returning to Toowoomba to rejoin the family firm in 1911. In 1922, he settled in Brisbane and established a business of his own in Fortitude Valley, where he remained until his retirement in 1958. Rosenstengel’s work was distinguished by the use of Queensland timbers, particularly Queensland maple and silky oak, together with elaborate carving and marquetry inlay.

Popular items included black-stained oak dining tables and sideboards in the Jacobean style, suited to the ‘Tudor residences’ and ‘Spanish mission villas’ that were popular in the fashionable suburbs of Brisbane from the late 1920s. Other popular suites of furniture, for dining and bedrooms, were made in a simplified Queen Anne style. His most exceptional works date from the 1930s and follow the Edwardian taste for period revival styles. The Duke of Gloucester (later the Governor-General of Australia, 1945–47) toured Australia in 1934 to participate in the centenary celebrations of the state of Victoria; during his visit to Brisbane, he slept in a suite of Louis XV-style furniture specially commissioned by the Queensland Government for Government House.

Chest in Rosenstengel family home_72dpix570w
Chest of drawers photographed in Rosenstengel’s home in Harcourt Street, New Farm
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The use of Wedgwood’s blue and white cameo reflects the inspiration of Neoclassicism

The furniture Rosenstengel made for his own home in Harcourt Street, New Farm, such as this chest of drawers, was of equivalent quality. The chest follows the model of that in the Government House suite but the bound reeds at the corners (fasces) reflect the inspiration of Neoclassicism in the succeeding period of Louis XVI. This is emphasised by the use of Wedgwood’s blue and white cameos, which were widely used in English furniture of the late eighteenth century. A contemporary element is added by the black glass (vitrolite), which protects the top surface.

After surviving the Depression and the restrictions of World War Two, Rosenstengel was able to return to active business — indeed, by the early 1950s, his workforce and output rivalled those of the pre-war years. However, around this time, Rosenstengel’s health began failing, and he announced the closure of the company in 1956. A final flurry of orders from his loyal clientele required him to remain in business until March 1958, at which time he finally closed up rather than risk tarnishing his reputation.

Glenn R Cooke is former Research Curator, Queensland Heritage,  QAGOMA

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Installation view of Chest of drawers at the Queensland Art Gallery

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