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Queensland views

Under the jacaranda

R. Godfrey Rivers, England/Australia 1859-1925 | Under the jacaranda 1903 | Oil on canvas | Purchased 1903 | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Evening (Mt Coot-tha from Dutton Park)

F.J. Martyn Roberts, England/Australia 1871-1963 | Evening (Mt Coot-tha from Dutton Park) 1898 | Oil on canvas | Purchased 1997 with funds from M.I.M. Holdings Limited through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Installation view

Installation view

Currently on display | Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Galleries | Queensland Art Gallery (QAG)

Richard Godfrey Rivers was undoubtedly the ‘father’ of art in Queensland. Following JA Clarke’s death in 1890, he became head of the Art Department at Brisbane Technical College. Bolstered by his background at the Slade School in London and his involvement with the Queensland Art Society, he orchestrated the push to establish the Queensland Art Gallery in 1895; he then acted as the Gallery’s inaugural curator.

With both training and exhibiting opportunities, young Queensland artists, such as LJ Harvey, Vida Lahey, Daphne Mayo, Lloyd Rees and Martyn Roberts, were able to develop careers in Brisbane. Martyn Roberts later studied in Sydney with Julian Ashton, where he also viewed work by Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton and Charles Conder, which in turn informed his Evening (Mt Coot-tha from Dutton Park) 1898. Streeton’s celebrated painting Still glides the stream and will forever glide 1890, the sketch for which is in this gallery, was also influential.

Rivers’s iconic Under the jacaranda 1903 departs from his earlier work and may be seen as a response to Martyn Roberts: contemporary critics and writers praised Rivers’s work for its ‘breadth’ and ‘force’. The intense mauve of the flowering tree, which is depicted in brilliant sunlight, contrasts with the evocative twilight of Roberts’s painting.

These Queensland artists practised a variety of styles, whether studying and working in Brisbane or abroad. In 1896, the sculptor Harold Parker moved from Queensland to London and became one of the few Australian artists at the turn of the century to establish a reputation in England; he continued to live and work overseas for much of his career.

Collection Highlight 

R. Godfrey Rivers Under the jacaranda 1903

Under the jacaranda has been one of the best loved works in the Queensland Art Gallery since it entered the Collection in 1903. Godfrey Rivers completed the painting 13 years after he arrived in Australia from the United Kingdom.

With jacarandas now growing in most Brisbane suburbs, many the progeny of this first tree, Under the jacaranda may be considered a quintessential image of this city.  

The work depicts Rivers and his wife Selina, taking tea under the shade of a jacaranda tree in full bloom. The tree was a landmark in Brisbane's Botanic Gardens, which adjoined the grounds of the Brisbane Technical College where Rivers taught from 1891 to 1915.

It was almost certainly the first jacaranda to be grown in Australia. Walter Hill, the Gardens' Superintendent, planted it in 1864. It remained in the Gardens until 1979, when it was blown over during a cyclone ― part of the trunk is now located at the offices of the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens.

For Kids
Many people don’t realise that jacarandas are not native to Australia, they are actually from South America. In Brazil, jacaranda timber is used to make acoustic guitars. The jacaranda in this painting was probably the first one to come to Australia, and most of the jacarandas we see now around the city are its relatives! Can you identify some of the native and non native trees are around your house? 

Of Interest 

The Queensland Art Gallery houses a significant collection of Australian paintings, sculptures, decorative art objects, and works on paper. Find more information on these selected Collection highlights | Indigenous Australian Art | Queensland Heritage | Australian Art to 1975 

Search the Queensland Art Gallery's Collection online for works by R. Godfrey Rivers and FJ Martyn Roberts | Collection Search