Brisbane River, view up the river opposite the Hamilton Hotel
Current Location: Queensland Art Gallery
Creator: Artist Isaac Walter Jenner
Where Made: Brisbane
Description: Oil painting on cardboard. 12.8 x 20.2cm.
Curator's notes: Brisbane was still an unsophisticated town when Isaac Walter Jenner and his
family moved here in 1883 and the regular sale of paintings to support his
artistic practice would not have been easy. Consequently, in 1887, Jenner held
an art union of his oils, watercolours and drawings he had brought with him and
which largely featured English subjects. Although he continued to paint English
subjects to satisfy his largely immigrant audience''s nostalgia for `home'' (an
English subject was on his easel when he died), his Queensland subjects have
retained the greatest interest. The Queensland Art Gallery possesses a pair of
paintings executed in 1885, `Hamilton Reach'' and a `(View of Brisbane)'' (Acc.
nos. 1986.035 and 1986.036), which demonstrate that Jenner did address himself
to supplying the market with local scenes soon after his arrival.
The Hamilton Reach of the Brisbane River was a subject that readily lent itself
to the pictorial conventions of the late nineteenth century. The group of trees
in the middle of Jenner''s painting forms a distinctive and picturesque group.
The composition of this painting is especially interesting - its focus is the
gap between the group of tree trunks at the centre. The bright rosy pinks of the
setting sun and its reflection in the waters of the Brisbane River successfully
balance the darker mass of trees on the river bank on the right. This scene was
a subject favoured by other artists of the period such as Henry Rielly and
Julian Rossi Ashton when they sketched in Brisbane.
The Hamilton Reach is the most readily identifiable subject of this group of
four Jenners which are dated 1894. Although clearly of the Brisbane River, the
subjects of the other three are not so familiar. When the paintings were
unframed, however, titles were found inscribed in the artist''s hand on the back
of each panel - this is an unusual occurrence. They were: `Brisbane River, view
up the river opposite the Hamilton Hotel'', `Brisbane River, Bulimba Reach'' (Acc
no. 2004.194.002), `Brisbane River, Garden Reach from near dry dock looking down
river'' (Acc no. 2004.194.003) and `Brisbane River, from North Quay looking
towards Toowong''(Acc no. 2004.194.004). A matched set of paintings with
identified locations is extremely rare in colonial Brisbane. Additionally,
although we are well used to precise detail in Jenner''s work, his exquisite,
almost miniaturist touch in this group of paintings is remarkable.
The four paintings were received from the Estate of Dr Patricia Marks (1918-
2002), granddaughter of the prominent Brisbane physician Charles Ferdinand Marks
(1852-1941). According to family history the works were presented to Dr Marks
for the help he had given Jenner and his family. An inscription found on the
backing board of one of the works, which also appears to be in the artist''s
hand, `Mr Hon Dr. C. Marks 101 Wickham Tce.'', affirms the artist''s deep regard
for his patron (Acc. no. 2004.194.002).
It is interesting to note that all the paintings focus on the Brisbane River,
the transportation lifeline of the city, and reinforce Jenner''s reputation as a
marine artist. A broadening of the scope of art history in recent decades has
led to the valuing of works of art as visual documents. Australian cities were
founded in the nineteenth century when there was extensive visual recording of
the progress of settlement. Views such as these by Jenner reinforce the value of
historical, cultural and social studies.
Glenn, R. Cooke, Research Curator, Queensland Heritage, Aug 2004.
Queensland Art Gallery image:
Gift from the Estate of Dr Elizabeth (Pat) Marks through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2004