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The SAPPHO and other ships

Date: late 19th century
Overall: 173 x 124 mm, 70 g
Medium: Pencil and watercolour paint on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Josef Lebovic Gallery
Object Name: Drawing
Object No: 00029647

User Terms

    This notebook paper features pencil and watercolour illustrations of three individual ships. The top vessel is the three-masted steamship SAPPHO. In the centre of the page is a two-masted steamship, and at the bottom is a three-masted sailing ship. These sketches are from the earliest phase of Mahony's career and were possible studies for proposed later works.
    SignificanceThese early sketches record the artistic development of Francis Prout Mahony - one of the first Australian born artists - who helped develop the sentiment of pioneering Australia at a time of growing national identity.
    HistoryFrancis Prout Mahony (generally known as Frank Mahony) was born in Melbourne in 1862. He came to Sydney in 1872 and studied at the New South Wales Academy of Art. His emergence as an artist dates from his employment on The Picturesque Atlas of Australia (1886) and two of his contributions, the spearing of Edmund Kennedy and Edward John Eyre's expedition along the coast with Wylie, became part of the mythology surrounding the European exploration of Australia.

    From 1888 onwards, Mahony was one of Australia's best known artists and illustrators, specialising in horses and action scenes which stimulated and reflected national sentiment, helping to fashion the legends of pioneering Australia. Although he produced a number of oils he is better known for his pencil sketches and etchings published in journals such as the Sydney Mail, the Bulletin, The Illustrated Sydney News, The Antipodean and The Australian Town and Country Journal. Mahony also illustrated the works of A B Paterson, Henry Lawson, Barcroft Boake and Ethel Pedley. Mahony was a founding council-member in 1895 of the Society of Artists, Sydney, an instructor for the Art Society of New South Wales and a member of the Sydney based Dawn to Dusk Club.

    In 1904 he went to England, but failed to gain recognition as an artist and died there in relative obscurity in 1916. According to the Australian Dictionary of Biography (1986) following his death a memorial to 'our first born Australian artist' was erected on his grave by his Australian admirers.

    Although he later specialised in action scenes based on the frontier, explorer and pastoralist themes it is no wonder that the young Mahony was drawn to the activity and colour of the maritime industries of Darling Harbour and Cockle Bay, recording some of the more significant vessels which berthed there including the CUTTY SARK and SAPPHO.

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    Web title: The SAPPHO and other ships

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