British artist Conrad Martens, who arrived in Sydney in 1835, is best known for his accomplished watercolours of early settlement around Sydney and Brisbane. Martens’s mastery of watercolour technique informs this luminous oil painting of Sydney Harbour. He has used oil paint to convey the atmospheric conditions of the sea and sky, and the subtlety of light and tone.
The view is from the north, most likely from Cremorne Point. Martens had settled with his family close by in St Leonards in 1844. Framed by a foreground of native bush, we look over the glistening harbour towards the settlement of Sydney Cove. The distant horizon of the ocean divides the picture, a light-filled sky adding to the beauty of the harbour. Some of the early landmarks of Sydney are visible in this work, including the spire of convict-architect Francis Greenway’s Church of St James (constructed in 1824), Government House and Fort Macquarie at Bennelong Point (now the location of Sydney Opera House).
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010