Important Australian + International Fine Art
29 April 2009

George Augustus Robinson

(1791 - 1866)

watercolour on paper

46.5 x 71.0 cm

titled, dated and signed lower right: Hobart 1840 / G.A. Robinson

$40,000 - 60,000

Edward Gregg Collection, Tasmania
Masterpiece Fine Art Gallery, Hobart
Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne
Private collection, Victoria


Annual Collectors' Exhibition, Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, 5 June – 3 July 1999, cat. 3

Catalogue text

George Augustus Robinson, who arrived in Hobart in 1824, is better known as the protector of Tasmanian Aborigines than as an artist. Today, he is remembered as the European figure in cap and coat surrounded by a group of native Tasmanians in Benjamin Duterrau's painting, The Conciliation of 1836, in the collection of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart. Duterrau also painted several portraits of Robinson.

Robinson's view is taken from a position close to that used by George Evans for his watercolour of Hobart Town, from which the well known aquatint was printed in London in 1828. Another similar view, Vue D'Hobart-Town, Prise de L'Est, lithographed by Koeppelin after the drawing by de Sainson, was published in 1830. Both these views depict Hobart at the time they were drawn, a few years before the dates they were printed. The state of development of Hobart in Robinson's watercolour also suggests that it may depict the town at a date earlier than the inscribed date of execution. Some similarities in these views may suggest that Robinson was influenced by one or the other. While all three give panoramic views, Robinson's is inclined towards a closer focus on the foreground buildings. Moreover, his watercolour shows a greater stylistic affinity with the work of his friend Benjamin Duterrau, who also painted panoramas of Hobart Town, than to Evans and de Sainson.

His own work as an artist took the form of sketches illustrating his field journals, now in the Mitchell Library of the State Library of New South Wales. This view of Hobart Town therefore is a rare example of a large and finished watercolour by Robinson. Whether of his own inspiration or influenced by others, its interest lies both in its rarity and as a visual historical record of Hobart in its early days, presented in the topographical style of the time.

As in Evans' aquantint, and more so in de Sainson's lithograph, the view looks up Macquarie Street showing such identifiable buildings as the Commissariat's Store, Bostock's Store, and St David's Church. The attention Robinson paid to the lesser buildings and houses in the foreground might be explained by his earlier career as a builder, and a certain pride in recording buildings well-made.