Conrad Martens auction painting important part of Australian history

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 29th June, 2021

In the foreground is a clear and unmistakeable Aborigine dressed in white while a stockman can be seen in the distance riding away.

The is the Conrad Martens (1801-1878) watercolour painting titled Kilcoy, Moreton Bay, Australia (lot 370) that once resided in the Alan Bond Collection and was sold in 1992 by Christie’s to the current Queensland owner’s mother who recently died.

It is an impressive part of Philips Auctions timed online Fine and Decorative Arts sale at 47 Glenferrie Road, Malvern which closes from noon Monday July 5.

Live viewing for this and the jewellery auction is from 9am-5pm Tuesday June 29 to Friday July 2 and from 12pm-5pm Saturday July 3 and Sunday July 4.

The painting demonstrates Martens training in English watercolours and his mastery of topographical detail combined with a romantic picturesque aesthetic.

Born in 1801, Martens studied painting with one of his era’s leading watercolourists, A.V. Copley Fielding.

In 1833, Martens sailed for Australia but, changing ships mid-voyage, ended up on naturalist Charles Darwin’s The Beagle – spending the next two years undertaking exacting topographical drawings before arriving in Sydney where he settled for the remainder of his life.

Owned by Charles Atherton, Kilcoy was a 14,000-hectare sheep and cattle property first documented by Martens on February 9, 1852 when he completed a faithful pencil sketch of the holdings that is now housed in Sydney’s Mitchell Library.

Atherton purchased the subsequent watercolour rendition “View of Kilcoy”, probably the same work as in this auction, from Martens on September 1, 1852 for 5.5 guineas.

Other important paintings in this significant Queensland collection of 260 lots include Hans Heysen’s (1877-1968) Sheep and cattle grazing beneath gum trees (lot 371) and Gum trees (lot 372), and Albert Namatjira’s (1902-1959) Ghost gums with blue ranges (lot 373).

The collection also contains early Worcester porcelain such as a 1780 12-sided dessert dish (lot 263) and 1770s heart shaped dessert dish (lot 267) both from London’s A.J. Greenacre that sold respectively in 1994 for 950 pounds and in 1995 for 850 pounds, a 1765 leaf shaped dish (lot 265) purchased for 575 pounds from Richard Gardner Antiques in West Sussex, and a circa 1770 first period saucer dish and blind earl plate (lot 268) from Jupiter Antiques in East Sussex and London’s Aurea Carter.

Among the collection’s furniture offerings are 10 George III chairs and two carvers (lot 464) in the manner of English cabinetmaker and upholsterer John Cobb (c1710-1778), who together with William Vile held the Royal Warrant from 1761 to 1764 when the latter retired.

The two men supplied furniture to their era’s leading patrons including George III and Queen Charlotte, the 1st Earl of Leicester at Holkham Hall, the 4th Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth and the 4th Duke of Bedford at Woburn Abbey.

Some of Cobb’s elegant neoclassical style furniture is Buckingham Palace’s Royal Collection.

A circa 1690-1700 William and Mary high back walnut chair also should impress auction goers.

The second part of this Queensland estate will be offered in Philips next timed online auction on Monday August 9 and features John Gould watercolours, first edition books and early Australiana items.  

Another auction highlight is a collection of 13 paintings by David Boyd (1924-2011) and eight by Pro Hart (1928-2006) from the same vendor.

The collection includes the 1973 publication titled The Art of David Boyd by Nancy Benko (lot 307) with the artist’s signature separately included and highlights are Sunflower Children III (lot 308), Secret of the blue roses (lot 342) and Mining Area (lot 310).



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