100 Highlights from the Cbus Collection of Australian Art
27 July 2022


(1801 - 1878)

oil on canvas

33.5 x 48.0 cm

signed lower right: C Martens
inscribed verso: for Phillip P. King/ Sep 1849

$60,000 – $80,000
Sold for $122,727 (inc. BP) in Auction 70 - 27 July 2022, Melbourne

Philip Parker King, Sydney, acquired directly from the artist
Thomas Bridgeman Lethbridge, Esq., a gift from the above in 1849
Thence by descent
Private collection
Joseph Brown Gallery, Melbourne
Private collection, Melbourne, acquired from the above in 1985
Christie’s, Melbourne, 9 April 1991, lot 226
The Cbus Collection of Australian Art, Melbourne, acquired from the above 


Autumn Exhibition 1979, Joseph Brown Gallery, Melbourne, 5 – 20 April 1979, cat. 5 (illus. in exhibition catalogue) 
Australian Art: 1820s – 1980s, Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne, 19 May – 3 June 1988, cat. 12 (illus. in exhibition catalogue)
The Bus Collection of Australian Art, Wollongong City Gallery, New South Wales, 16 March – 12 April 1992, cat. 1
The Reading Room, The Cbus Collection of Australian Art, Latrobe Regional Gallery, Victoria, 9 November 2013 – 20 April 2014
on long term loan to Gippsland Art Gallery, Victoria 


de Vries – Evans, S., Conrad Martens on the Beagle and in Australia, Pandanus Press, Brisbane, 1993, p. 105 (as ‘Tahlee from the Water’) 
Nainby, B., Stanhope, Z., and Furlonger, K., The Cbus Collection of Australian Art, in association with Latrobe Regional Gallery, Melbourne, 2009, pp. 17, 23 (illus.), 226

Catalogue text

In 1841, Conrad Martens travelled north from Sydney to Newcastle and Port Stephens, seeking fresh scenery, new commissions and to visit Captain Phillip Parker King, noted hydrographer and recently appointed commissioner of the pastoral Australian Agricultural Company. Pencil sketches that Martens drew during this visit (now held in the State Library of New South Wales) informed two paintings commissioned by King of Tahlee, the elegant sandstone commissioner’s residence, comfortably situated above Nelson Bay at Port Stephens.1 As was usual in his practice, Martens manipulated atmospheric conditions as a compositional device; in this oil painting, the dark and shadowed native vegetation and storm clouds in the right half of the composition are interrupted by the vertical boat mast, while the sweep of the illuminated sail leads the eye towards the buildings, and the sunlit, cleared land and jetty at left.2 

The King family had proven generous supporters of Martens. When the travelling artist had first arrived in Sydney in April 1835, he carried a letter of introduction from Robert FitzRoy, captain of the Beagle, to King, the previous captain of that now-famous ship, upon which Marten had served as expedition artist, together with the young Charles Darwin and King’s son, midshipman Phillip Gidley King junior. FitzRoy’s warm letter and King’s subsequent friendship and patronage were critical to Marten’s professional success in Sydney. During his long career, Martens produced an extensive body of watercolours, oil paintings, drawings, sketches and lithographs capturing the sparkling waters of Port Jackson’s numerous bays; picturesque views of Australian environments seen during his travels from the Illawarra to the Darling Downs; and numerous local and rural residences, including those of the Kings, their relatives the Macarthurs, and other leading figures of the colony’s burgeoning civil community and squattocracy.

King served as commissioner from 1839 – 49 and was the last in that position to reside at Tahlee; the original house was destroyed by fire in 1860. Martens continued to paint regularly for the Kings, including to record the funeral flotilla of by-then Rear Admiral King across Sydney Harbour upon his death in 1856.3

1. Martens recorded painting Tahlee from the water (Dec 1841) and Tahlee from the Island (May 1842) for King. In 1855, he painted a View of Tahlee for Reverend R. King. He also recorded four other views of the house: two commissioned in 1841 (Mrs Dumaresq); one in 1842 (J.W. White) and one purchased by ‘Wilshire Esq’ (possibly the artist William Pitt Wilshire) from the Fine Arts Society exhibition in Sydney in 1849. See Conrad Martens, Account of Pictures Painted at Sydney N. S. Wales, SLNSW DLMS 142. For a compilation of his 1841 sketches, see https://hunterlivinghistories.com/2012/01/23/conrad-martens-in-newcastle... (accessed 4 June 2022)
2. In another version from the same vantage point, the sailing boat is replaced with a rowing boat; see Conrad Martens, Tahlee House, Port Stephens, NSW, sold Sotheby’s, Sydney, 4 Dec. 1994, lot. 25
3. Thirteen paintings commissioned by King, three by Mrs King (including two of her husband’s funeral: SLNSW ML 994, private collection), plus more by other relatives are recorded by Martens in his Account, SLNSW DLMS 142.