Tag Archives: Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery

The Derwent – a version by Stephenson and Walch

Late in July this year, an exhibition opened at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) which put ‘Tasmania’s iconic River Derwent on show’.  This free-to-attend exhibition will continue on display until 5 November.


The exhibition features the time-lapse photographic and video work of David Stephenson and Martin Walch, taken over a 5 year period.  In addition, TMAG has brought out a selection of their permanent collection’s 19th century drawings and paintings depicting the Derwent river around the Hobart area.


In the centre of one gallery space, a display box contained photograph albums from the late 1800s.



Based on the larger ‘The Derwent Project’, viewers at the exhibition are presented with large scale works which provides one indicator of the large scale of our Derwent River. Descriptive still images are provided on the Derwent Project website so you can get some appreciation of what to expect when you visit the exhibition.  The photographic works are wall-sized composites of thumbnail photos.  IMG_0543.JPG


The videos are gigantic projections of the changing waters of the Derwent – along the side of one very long museum wall. I loved the silky silvery quality in the videos. IMG_0540.JPGIn addition , large image shift pictures changed as you watched in another gallery space. IMG_0546.JPG

The Mercury newspaper reported ‘Two men, one river, a vision splendid’ and show photos of the artists and other images from the exhibition.

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).


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?

Piguenit – artist extraordinaire in southern Tasmania

The 19th century lady who wrote her story of a walk from Trial Harbour to Ouse (refer https://walkingthederwent.com/2015/06/20/a-story-of-a-walk-in-19th-century-tasmania/) mentioned Tasmanian artist William Charles Piguenit in her record of the events.

‘… had our first near view of the various peaks of the West Coast Range. From here we kept on rising till we reached the Government hut, 1,500 ft above and 15 miles from Strahan.  Here the first of a series of magnificent views met our eyes; beneath us lay a deep valley, forest clad for miles, and beyond, stretching as far away as the eye could reach, lay the range, its rugged peaks standing out sharply against the sky.

How it makes one long for the brush of a ready painter, to be able to place on canvas at least something to keep one’s mind fresh with the remembrance of all this beauty. Mr Piguenit is, I believe, the only artist who has devoted his time and labour to this district, and the results of his work are to be seen in the pictures now hanging in the Art Gallery of the Hobart Museum, and certainly the next best thing to visiting the West Coast is to see Mr Piguenit’s pictures of different scenes in that region.’

The collection of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) contains a substantial number of his oil paintings.  Years ago I was employed by TMAG as an attendant and stationed in the upstairs ‘colonial’ gallery where the 19th century paintings were hung adjacent to marble sculptures and rare examples of early Tasmanian wood furniture. Back then I was a student of art history, and the establishment deemed me to be the expert amongst their collection of gallery attendants. They felt sure I would be able to help any visitor with enquiries about the collection on show.  One whole end of that 19th century gallery space was devoted to the work of Piguenit.  With much time on my hands to study each work of art, I fell in love with his dramatic descriptions of remote Tasmanian wilderness. But most surprising was that many of the very large oils, surrounded by beautiful carved frames, were compositions of the landscape in many gradations of grey when Piguenit had only chosen to use black and white paint.  Gloriously glossy. Unexpectedly stunning.  Tasmania’s inland environment had never been seen by most people (and still hasn’t been).

It was a surprise to me that I can only find online reproductions of these great paintings in a TMAG published catalogue raisonne of the work of William Charles Piguenit (http://www.tmag.tas.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/73142/piguenit_catalogue.pdf). Unfortunately, the document is incomplete and the images are very poorly reproduced – this booklet does the artist a great disservice. When faced with the paintings, the oils are truly majestic and have a similar power to mountainous work by artists such as Eugen von Guerard, Casper David Friedrich, and those from the Hudson River School such as Frederick Edwin Church.

The collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney holds some of his work including the following paintings (in coloured oils) which show aspects of Lake St Clair (the source of the Derwent River and the goal of my walk).

Mount Ida, Lake St Clair, Tasmania c1881

AGNSW Mount Ida Lake St Clair Tasmaniac1881

Mount Olympus, Lake St Clair, Tasmania, the source of the Derwent 1875

AGNSW Mount Olympus Lake St Clair Tasmania the source of the Derwent 1875

Queens Battery

One of the great things about my walk along the Derwent River is that I find sites I did not know existed and I also discover new information. The location of the Queens Battery under the current site of the Cenotaph and Regatta Grounds within the broader area of the Queens Domain is one such item.

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery have created a short video which uses photographs from its historic collection. See www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVEGkgDZMMg

From my time in an earlier stage of the walk, at the Kangaroo Bluff Fort at Bellerive, I knew that Hobart established a series of defensive posts along the Derwent River. Built in the 19th century by the British colonials who settled here, these defence services were designed to counteract their worries about protecting trading ships and then later concerns that Russian forces might invade (I ask you – really? At the other end of the earth!!!! Was this ever likely?).

Wikipedia informs me that … between 1804 and 1942 there were 12 permanent defensive positions constructed in the Hobart region. The start of construction of the Queen’s Battery began in 1838, named in honour of HRH Queen Victoria who was on the throne at the time of the fort’s construction. This was expected to be the grandest of forts and prominently overlook the entrance to Sullivans Cove; however the full plans were never developed. The battery was delayed by funding problems, and  not completed until 1864. The Queens Battery remained in operation until the 1920s. The excavation of the site in 1992 revealed the hot shot oven and the metal parts for rolling the shot were preserved. The oven and archaeological trenches were filled in at the request of the RSL (Returned Services League). The cannon was never fired in anger.”

Location: https://www.google.com.au/maps/vt/data=U4aSnIyhBFNIJ3A8fCzUmaVIwyWq6RtIfB4QKiGq_w,RxhryNB7L5JOppJVjT-1-R9cFyBVxNXF90HhgNOerRCLFKA0zhnI73KC6M5MNa5q95GGnBSCATceYGtWfCO0Xbhedz4BfgEB94Q8t3utHEcf2IzasqMYwzgOJWcTExF5GUO4ledjJPLwKg


Last Friday/Saturday the fourth stage of my walk along the Derwent River finished in Bellerive. Being curious to know a little history of this Hobart suburb’s existence, I discovered it was first settled in the 1820s after years of people ferrying across the Derwent River from Hobart Town. Its first name was Kangaroo Point.  No prizes for guessing why.  Apparently the area abounded with native kangaroos (and/or perhaps the prolific Bennetts Wallaby which is often referred to as a kangaroo).

The name changed from Kangaroo Point to Bellerive around 1830, using the French language as inspiration: bel = ‘beautiful’ + rive = ‘bank’.

However, its original name seems to have been retained in common usage, because two eminent artists of the 19th century produced art work located from Kangaroo Point. The renowned English artist John Glover painted Mount Wellington and Hobart Town from Kangaroo Point in 1834, and the Austrian artist Eugene von Guerard, who was active in Australia in the middle of the 19th century, created a colour lithograph Hobart Town, from Kangaroo Point, Tasmania in the late 1860s.

The Glover painting is at home in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in Hobart.  This picture interests me because some of the original indigenous land owners, the Moomairremener people, have been depicted on the banks of Kangaroo Point, and there is very little sign of the ‘civilisation’ of Hobart Town on the other side of the Derwent River.  By contrast, 30 odd years later von Guerard’s print shows considerable build-up of Hobart Town beneath a snow capped Mount Wellington.

John Glover- from Kangaroo Point towards Mt W and Hbt Town

The von Guerard lithograph is at home in the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne.

Von Guerard Hbt Town from Kangaroo Point

These days, Bellerive is a suburb of the Greater Hobart Area completely covered with streets and houses of every vintage. With its easy access to excellent sandy beaches, a vibrant village shopping centre, the regular presentation of fantastic free public festivals, and safe marina, Bellerive is a great place to live or visit.