Mount Wellington and Hobart Town from Kangaroo Point 1834 is an image of mysterious, powerful nature—the large mass of Mount Wellington, looming clouds, the broad expanse of the River Derwent and the nearby open grasslands. It also portrays Aboriginal people singing and dancing, fishing and swimming, at ease in the natural environment; and shows European civilisation—the buildings and streets, the ships, and the marching red-coated soldiers—hovering tentatively at the base of the mountain and on the edge of the water. On closer looking it becomes apparent that it is an image of two spheres: the natural world of Kangaroo Point and Mount Wellington contrasted with the ‘civilised’ settlement of Hobart Town; the uninhibited energy and ease of the Aboriginal people as opposed to the regimented activities of the soldiers.
The son of a Leicestershire farmer, Glover achieved success as an artist in Britain during the 1790s–1820s, painting watercolours and oils of the mountains and lakes of England, Wales, Switzerland and Italy. He worked with relentless attention to detail, adopting a Picturesque approach to the landscape.
Glover painted Mount Wellington and Hobart Town at the height of his career, during his first years in Van Diemen’s Land. He was living in Hobart in the summer of 1831–32 and was present when George Augustus Robinson, under the auspices of the Colonial Government, brought the last of the people of the Big River and Oyster Bay regions from their own land to Government House in Hobart. Glover, like many of his contemporaries, admired Robinson and the government’s misguided policy of ‘conciliation’, believing it to be in the Aboriginal people’s interest. However, 10 days after their arrival in Hobart they were shipped to Flinders Island, in Bass Strait where they eventually died. In Mount Wellington and Hobart Town Glover paid homage to these men and women.
John McPhee, The Art of John Glover, Melbourne: Macmillan, 1980.
Tim Bonyhady, Australian Colonial Paintings, Canberra: Australian National Gallery, 1986.
David Hansen, John Glover and the Colonial Picturesque, Hobart: Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, 2003.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002