• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • pinterest
  • Tumblr
  • Flickr
  • Youtube
  • eNews

Conrad Martens

Conrad Martens

Conrad Martens | England/Australia 1801-1878 | Forest, Cunningham's | Gap1856 Watercolour on paper | 30.5 x 42cm | Purchased 1998 with funds raised through The Conrad Martens Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Appeal and with the assistance of the Queensland Government's special Centenary Fund | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Conrad Martens, 'Forest, Cunningham's Gap', 1856

Conrad Martens
England/Australia  1801-1878
Forest, Cunningham's Gap 1856
Watercolour on paper
30.5 x 42cm
Purchased 1998 with funds raised through The Conrad Martens Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Appeal and with the assistance of the Queensland Government's special Centenary Fund
Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Conrad Martens

Forest, Cunningham's Gap 1856

British-born Conrad Martens settled in Sydney in 1835 and established a lucrative career. Fifteen years later, however, New South Wales suffered an economic downturn and Martens visited the Moreton Bay area in the hope of obtaining commissions from his connections on the rich pastoral lands of the Darling Downs.

Martens landed in Brisbane on 17 November 1851, and by 11 December was traversing the steep incline of Cunningham's Gap. This route, the most direct and picturesque from the coast, was also very hazardous. Here Martens, like travellers today, experienced a dramatic contrast between the dense rainforest surrounding Cunningham's Gap and the bright, open Downs.

The dark, oppressive scene he records is indicative of the way early settlers regarded the Australian bush. The novelist Marcus Clarke later described the Australian landscape as primitive and frightening, the untamed opposite of the English pastoral ideal.

The man on horseback is probably Martens himself on one of his two journeys through the area. The figure functions as a symbol of endeavour, about to break through the obscuring bush into the light of a new life.