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Tasmanian Art: From Colonial to Contemporary

Masterpiece Fine Art Gallery, Hobart, has since 1975 offered a broad range of fine art and antiques, and has exhibited works by many well-known Australian artists. Directors Nevin and Rose Hurst currently have on show a survey of Tasmanian art, dating from the island’s convict past through to the present day, which are available for purchase from their Hunter Street gallery.

  • Thomas Bock (1790 - 1855) - "R. V. Hood" c. 1839

Much of the early art of the colony was created by convicts who have left legacies far beyond their low standing. Among the earliest of these artists was Thomas Bock (1790 – 1855), who was transported to Hobart Town in 1824. After his pardon, he established himself as a portraitist, producing images of many of the colonial elite. Masterpiece currently has on offer his portrait of frame maker, lithographer and art dealer Robin Vaughn Hood (1802 – 1888), who was a central figure in the arts in and culture of Van Diemen’s Land, highly regarded for his iconic birds’ eye Huon pine frames.

Bock’s contemporary, William Buelow Gould (1803 – 1853), was transported to Van Diemen’s Land in 1827, and is now recognised as the first resident still life artist in the Australian colonies. He is best known today for his naïve yet exquisite still life arrangements of dead game, fruit and flowers, although he also painted maritime scenes, portraits, landscapes, botanical and zoological subjects. A drunkard and frequent reoffender, Gould served time at both Macquarie Harbour and Port Arthur, however received his certificate of freedom in 1835. He died in poverty in 1853.

The renowned artist John Glover (1767 – 1849) was among the free settlers in the early colony, and is now regarded the ‘Father of Australian Landscape Painting’. While he is now best known for his depictions of the Tasmanian landscape, prior to his departure from England he enjoyed a long and successful career as a painter of classical and picturesque views, and continued to paint European subject matter after his arrival in Van Diemen’s Land in 1831.

  • William Charles Piguenit (1836 – 1914) – ‘Shades of Evening’

Born in Hobart in 1836, William Charles Piguenit (1836 – 1914) became the colony’s first Australian born landscape artist of note, and is known for his romantic wilderness scenes, capturing the topography of Tasmania in colonial times. Piguenit was the son of a convict, Frederick Le Geyt Piguenit, who was transported in 1830. Piguenit joined the Lands and Survey Department as a draughtsman in 1850, where he worked for the next 23 years. Despite leaving the Department to focus on his painting, Piguenit’s background in surveying continued to influence his art, and throughout his artistic career he took part in a number of treks through Tasmanian wilderness areas, producing sketches of remote scenery which he later developed into larger paintings This painting depicts the colonial homestead ‘Mount Pleasant’, on the Eastern Shore of the River Derwent.

His contemporary, Haughton Forrest (1826 – 1925) emigrated from Britain to Tasmania in 1876. He painted prolifically after his arrival, becoming known for his meticulous paintings of Tasmanian maritime scenes and wilderness landscapes. Masterpiece has on offer an oil of Abel Tasman’s ships the Heemskirk and the Zeehan off the west coast of Tasmania – the first sighting of our island by Europeans.

Australian master Lloyd Rees (1895 – 1988) spent his final years in Tasmania, where his work focussed on the ethereal qualities of light. His late work prominently features views of the River Derwent from his home in Sandy Bay, often with the inclusion of Wrest Point Casino. Masterpiece Gallery had two exhibitions of Rees’ work during his lifetime; a joint exhibition with Desiderius Orban in 1983 and a solo exhibition in 1984.