Celebrating John Glover | Photos

LANDSCAPE: John Glover, Swilker Oak, c 1840, oil on canvas from the National Trust Tasmania Clarendon Collection.
LANDSCAPE: John Glover, Swilker Oak, c 1840, oil on canvas from the National Trust Tasmania Clarendon Collection.

Not far from Leicester, England, on February 18, 1767, John Glover was born.

The youngest son of a farmer, he spent much of his childhood working in the fields near Ingersby and developing a love of nature.

It was as a child that Glover began to sketch the world as he saw it – a passion and skill of observation which to lead some of the best historical records of the early years of colonial settlement in Tasmania.

A talent for calligraphy saw him appointed, around age 20, as the writing master at the Free School of Appleby, where he began to paint with both oil and watercolour.

He was soon married, to a lady nine years his senior, and took regular painting and drawing lessons in London.

Glover was also a regular attendant of sketching tours undertaken in the English countryside and began to teach at Lichfield in 1794.

Between 1795 and 1804 he exhibited views from Cumberland, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Wales and Scotland, painted in watercolour, at the Royal Academy.

But his interest in oil paintings continued to grow.

It was about 1810 when he began to exhibit large oil paintings at the British Institution, which continued until around 1928.

Three of his sons emigrated to Van Diemen’s Land in the late 1920s and Glover, wife Sarah and their son John soon followed, arriving at Hobart Town in 1831.

“He struggled to be accepted by the art world in the UK, it took him a long, long time to become a recognised artist,” John Glover Society chairman Andrew Heap said.

“It was probably late in his life when they realised he could paint … the thing that brought him to recognition was the light in Australia, the colours that we see everyday, unobstructed by fog, it was different.”

Mr Heap said most other artists who had come to Australia continued to paint in the British style, the way the had been trained, but Glover was unique.

“The historical ability he had to paint something that was ostensibly a landscape but capturing the geography of the county and the colours of the country was something that most people in Britain had never seen.”

Glover resided in Hobart and painted the surrounding area but he soon got a substantial land grant at Deddington, about 20 kilometres from Evandale, where he built his home.

He called the property on the Nile River Patterdale, after a Westmorland village where he had once lived.

It was here where he painted and with his family developed the property which eventually comprised more than 7000 acres.

Patterdale, about 20 kilometres from Evandale.

Patterdale, about 20 kilometres from Evandale.

By 1835 he sent 68 pictures, descriptive of the Scenery and Customs of Van Diemen's Land, to London for exhibition.

“There were no cameras, so you relied on artists … Glover was out in the Midlands painting and sketching,” Mr Heap said.

“He sketched the local Aboriginals, the local population working and he sketched and painted the flora and fauna and they are the only images we have.”

Mr Heap said a classic example of Glover acting as a historian, not just an artist, were two sketches on the property of his neighbour John Batman.

“One is of the local indigenous population and later there’s another sketch and if you look at the two groups of indigenous people they are different,” he said.

“Tasmanian history suggested that we incarcerated and killed a lot of the indigenous population but Batman also brought Aborigines down from the mainland. They were taller and wore different headdress and without those sketches we wouldn’t know that.”

Glover was a strong influence about a century later with the non-traditional style of the Heidelberg School, an Australian art movement which has also been described as Australian Impressionism.

“That was the start, there was no one before him, those who followed followed in his footsteps, even today,” Mr Heap said.

Glover died at Patterdale in 1841 but his legacy continues to be celebrated.

A statue of Glover at Evandale.

A statue of Glover at Evandale.

The John Glover Society was formed in the early 2000s and with some funding help form the agriculture show committee, launched what is now one of Australia's most significant awards for landscape painting.

The Glover Prize aims to highlight the innovative work of the legendary colonial painter and local resident

”It started in 2003 and the first prize was awarded in 2004 and Michael McWilliams won with Bandicoot on a Log which was in a very Glover-esk style,” Mr Heap said.

“Over the 14 years we have grown, and we have grown because of the passion and work ethic of our committee.”

A major focus of the prize is education, as well as fostering a love and interest in Tasmania across Australia and overseas.

“There has been about 4000 paintings created because there is a conduit for it, and those aren’t lying on the floor, we’re about creating a platform for artist to express themselves,” Mr Heap said.

The committee’s other key goal is giving back to the Evandale community and ensuring everyone who wants to play a part can be involved.

The 2017 finalists’ exhibition will run until Sunday at the Falls Park Pavilion at Evandale. This year’s winner was Queenstown artist Raymond Arnold.