Back in time: Early Brisbane watercolours

 

Together with drawing, watercolour was most often the medium of choice for documenting the early years of settlement in Queensland, especially to depict the landscape, chosen for its ability to record fine detail, evoking atmosphere, and most favoured for its portability and convenience.

In this watercolour Farm landscape with colonial homestead 1888 Robert S (Saunder) Rayment (1839-93) captures an ordered and productive English-inspired Queensland landscape hewed from the surrounding bush thought to be in the area around Brookfield or Pullenvale, now rural residential sister suburbs 12km south-west of Brisbane. The work features the rolling hills of the area, however by the 1850s early loggers sought the rich timber reserves and the land was then subdivided and auctioned in the 1860s when early settlers moved in to farm a variety of fruit and crops, with dairying beginning in the 1880s. This enduring watercolour is now a rare record of a mid-nineteenth century Brisbane pastoral scene.

RELATED: Know Brisbane through the QAGOMA Collection

‘Farm landscape with colonial homestead’ 1888

Robert S. Rayment, England/Australia 1839-93 / Farm landscape with colonial homestead 1888 / Watercolour over pencil on wove paper on cardboard / 38.5 x 101.2cm / Purchased 1911 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

‘Fairview’ (built in 1875) at Brookfield

James Brimblecombe’s residence ‘Fairview’ (built in 1875) at Brookfield, Brisbane / 39243 / Courtesy: State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

Farm workers at Pullenvale 1889

Farm workers at Pullenvale, 1889 / 41551 / Courtesy: State Library of Queensland, Brisbane
Detail of Robert S. Rayment Farm landscape with colonial homestead (detail) 1888

Robert S (Saunder) Rayment

Born in London, from an early age, Rayment showed a talent for painting, but in deference to his parents’ wishes, he studied law, and after obtaining his qualifications, he returned to his first interest — art. He was once a pupil of the influential English art critic and watercolourist John Ruskin (1819-1900), but little is known of his artistic career before he migrated to Australia with his family in 1887 and settled in Brisbane July of that year.

Rayment was determined to contribute to this new society, only a month after his arrival, he exhibited watercolours of local subjects at the Queensland National Agricultural and Industrial Association. The following year, among others, he also provided paintings for the Queensland Court at the Centennial International Exhibition, Melbourne in 1888. Rayment’s first two years in Queensland were spent travelling and painting clients properties. He painted numerous locations on the Brisbane River, as well as bush scenes in and around Brisbane, however his active career in Brisbane lasted just six years and very few of the artist’s works survive.

Stanthorpe 1888

Robert S. Rayment, England/Australia 1839-93 / Stanthorpe 1888 / Watercolour over pencil / Collection: State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

Humpybong (Redcliffe) 1889

Robert S. Rayment, England/Australia 1839-93 / Tippers 1889 / Watercolour over pencil / 37 x 33cm / 66351 / Collection: State Library of Queensland, Brisbane / Mr and Mrs Henry Tippler, two of the earliest residents of Humpybong (Redcliffe), seated outside their bark hut. Humpybong is situated on the shores of Moreton Bay, the southern extremity, Woody Point, being immediately opposite Sandgate. Henry Tippler was a member of one of the well-known oyster lease families at Currigee on South Stradbroke Island towards the end of the Nineteenth Century.

Mount Coot-tha 1892

Robert S. Rayment, England/Australia 1839-93 / Mount Coot-tha c.1892 / Watercolour and gouache over pencil on wove paper / 34.8 x 24.4cm / Gift of Miss E. Rayment 1911 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

The beginning of Brisbane’s art and culture

Rayment exhibited his watercolours at the Royal Queensland Art Society, of which he was a member, and taught drawing at the Brisbane Technical College, and Brisbane Girls’ Grammar School. In 1890, he applied for a position vacated by J.A. Clarke (1840–90) as Head of the Art Branch at the Brisbane Technical College which was eventually awarded to R. Godfrey Rivers (1858-1925).

RELATED: J.A. Clarke’s Panorama of Brisbane is a major work from the 19th century

DELVE DEEPER: R. Godfrey Rivers Under the jacaranda was painted in Brisbane’s Botanic Gardens

Rayment’s contemporary, J.A. Clarke is best remembered as a pioneer art teacher. In 1869–74 he was the only drawing teacher in Queensland Government schools and in 1881 he initiated art classes at the Brisbane School of Arts, and it was largely due to Clarke that the School of Arts classes became a Technical College in 1884.

Joseph Augustus Clarke’s Brisbane 1880

Joseph Augustus Clarke, Australia 1840–1890 / Panorama of Brisbane 1880 / Oil on canvas / 137 x 366cm / Collection: Queensland Museum

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, as the infrastructure of the Colony of Queensland improved and Brisbane began to acquire facilities usually found in much larger cities, formal institutions for teaching and education were established, and watercolour was an ideal medium to teach for its versatility. The Brisbane School of Arts opened, the Royal Queensland Art Society opened in 1887 as a result of the efforts of local artists Isaac Walter Jenner (1836-1902), Oscar Friström (1856-1918) and L.W.K. Wirth (1858 –1950), and the Queensland National Art Gallery (now QAGOMA) opened its doors in temporary premises in the old Town Hall on Queen Street in 1895, following advocacy by Jenner and Rivers.

Queensland National Art Gallery opened in 1895

The Queensland National Art Gallery opened in 1895 in the now demolished Brisbane Town Hall building in a large upper room placed at the disposal of the Trustees by the Municipal Council / Courtesy: John Oxley Library, Brisbane

Isaac Walter Jenner’s Brisbane 1888

Isaac Walter Jenner, England/Australia 1836-1902 / Brisbane from Bowen Terrace, New Farm 1888 / Oil on board / 14.5 x 21.8cm / Purchased 1995. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

R. Godfrey Rivers ‘Under the jacaranda’ 1903 

R. Godfrey Rivers, England/Australia 1858-1925 / Under the jacaranda 1903 / Oil on canvas / Purchased 1903 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery
R. Godfrey Rivers, England/Australia 1858-1925 / Under the jacaranda 1903 / Oil on canvas / 143.4 x 107.2 cm / Purchased 1903 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

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On display in the Josephine Ulrick & Win Schubert Galleries, Australian Art Collection at the Queensland Art Gallery

Additional research and supplementary material by Elliott Murray, Senior Digital Marketing Officer, QAGOMA
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