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George Frederick Gregory

1821-1887

George Frederick Gregory (1821 - 1887) was born in south England and worked as a draughtsman before joining the Royal Navy as a ship's carpenter. He was posted on a brig off East Africa apprehending illegal slave trade ships and served on HMS VICTORY and HMS NELSON. One of the subjects of his early paintings was the East India Company paddle-steamer NEMESIS, on which he voyaged to China in 1839-40.

Gregory then joined HMS CALLIOPE on a voyage to Australia at the height of the Gold rush period and he jumped ship in Hobson's Bay - the setting for several later paintings. By 1854 Gregory had established himself as a marine painter. He received commissions from sailors and new immigrants who wanted a record of the vessel in which they had sailed out to the Australian colonies.

Gregory married and had two sons, George Frederick (junior) and William. He remarried after his first wife died in the 1860s and had a third son, Arthur Victor. Both George Frederick and Arthur Victor were to become prominent maritime artists in their own right.

The boys assisted their father in stretching papers, preparing colours and washing skies. George Frederick junior, who moved to Adelaide in 1890, used a similar signature to his father, as well as a similar style, which has resulted in some confusion in attributions.

Gregory painted almost exclusively in watercolours and highlights of gouache. He used washes over pencil outlines with a confident brush, though with such as style and medium many of his works have faded. Most of his work consisted of sailing ship profiles, though he did paint some naval battles, shipwrecks, steam ships, fleets and other compositions.

His work was highly accurate in detail and as an experienced sailor and draughtsman, quite technical. He often placed recognisable geographic features in his paintings and they varied greatly in size. His output was vast and several of his major works were exhibited.

Gregory lived in Melbourne bayside suburbs from 1872 until his death in 1887 and painted almost exclusively in Melbourne, Victoria.

See The Dictionary of Australian Artists, Joan Kerr (ed), pp 322-323.