Piguenit at Lake St Clair

Since my walk from the mouth along the Derwent River culminated at the source, Lake St Clair, writing one of the final blog postings about my favourite Tasmanian artist Piguenit who painted Lake St Clair a number of times, seems appropriate.  Previously in the posting Piguenit- artist extraordinaire in southern Tasmania, I extolled some of his virtues.

The story goes – in one of my former lives, in my arts and museum career, I started in the profession working at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery – in three ways: I gave the occasional public lecture in the art gallery section, I volunteered and worked on the art collection in the bowels of the building, and I was employed as a cleaning and security attendant.  Because of my art knowledge and interest I was usually allocated the large gallery at the top of the building for the security detail, the one with the 19th century paintings and sculptures. In those days there was no cover on the roof windows, no insulation and no heating.  This is late 1970s and I recall being frozen for most of my winter shifts standing there.  But the win for me was that all the TMAG’s big Piguenit paintings were hung at one end of the gallery.  Until then I had never seen his work. I was bowled over by their majesty, their drama and with the artist’s skill.  Most especially, for the first time, I saw an artist painting serious pictures in oil but sometimes only using black and white paint and creating an image with greys (some were slightly yellow greys).  I marvelled at this and have adored his work ever since.  When I come across one of his pictures in any Gallery of Australia I simply stand in reverent silence. His work has that effect on me.

Recently I received a card for a milestone birthday from a couple of stalwart walkingthederwent supporters. The image on the cover was Lake St Clair, the Source of the River Derwent, Tasmania 1887.  Piguenit delighted in this lake and its glorious mountainous surrounds.  The image below, courtesy of Artnet, is very similar to that on my birthday card (regrettably I can find no online reproduction of ‘my’ image).

william-charles-piguenit-lake-st-clair-the-source-of-the-river-derwent-tasmania

The original oil on canvas, shown on my card, was presented to the Tasmanian Government  in 1889 and is now housed in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. The differences between ‘mine’ and the Artnet versions include the fact that the latter is a smaller canvas and the foreground rocks and sand are shaped and painted differently. My earlier posting has another image of the same location – one which is held in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Clearly the birthday card was sent with my recent walkingthederwent project in mind but without knowing my decades long ‘connection’ with Piguenit’s work. That image of Lake St Clair with Mount Olympus spot-lit is a stunner.  Now I wonder if the impetus for my walk along the Derwent began in that freezing Gallery all those years ago.  How could I have known what my future held and where I would end up?

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