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) - Portrait of Mr T. D. Chapman (1815 - 1884)

Much of the early art of the colony was created by convict artists 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.

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.

  • Haughton Forrest (1826 - 1925) - (Ship in Distress off a High Rocky Coast)

The colony’s first Australian born landscape artist of note, William Charles Piguenit (1836 – 1914), is known for his scenes of mountains, rivers and lakes, capturing the topography of Tasmania in colonial times. Born in Hobart in 1836, 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.

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 maritime scenes and Tasmanian wilderness landscapes.

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.