Conrad Martens: On the Beagle and in Australia

Conrad MartensConrad Martens became Australia's first professional artist, and an Antipodean version of Turner, the painter who inspired him. Although Martens has become one of the best-loved Australian artists, somewhat surprisingly his life and his major works have never been fully documented. 

This well-researched biography covers Conrad Martens' early years in England, his period as official artist on the Beagle, his visits to Tahiti and New Zealand and his painting tours in the Blue Mountains, the Illawarra, Brisbane, the Darling Downs, New England, and the Hunter Valley, as well as his life and work in Sydney.

It deals with problems of forgeries of his work based on substitituting less valuable unsigned works by 1M. Rugendas, George Peacock or those by his daughter Rebecca, whom he taught.

This fascinating book written in simple language ideal for school projects or details Martens' voyage with Charles Darwin on the Beagle, their survey of the Santa Cruz River, their search for the murderers of the Governor of the Falkland Islands and the story of Jemmy Button, the Fuegian Indian taken to England and educated as an English gentleman who then returned to join his tribe with disastrous results. Martens' drawings and profile maps of the Falklands proved so strategically important and accurate that the British War Office consulted them during the Falklands War.

The author's clear and lively text provides insight into colonial life and early art patronage ‑ or the lack of it ‑ as well as dealing with Martens' pupils, patrons, exhibitions, and lithographs. Three maps, sixteen colour plates, seventeen b&w illustrations and a six-page chronology of Martens' life make this the definitive biography for general readers and students of colonial art and colonial history.

Paperback almost sold out from Scribo Book Distributors of Sydney, price $29.95.