View of a part of the Town of Parramatta in New South Wales Taken from the North Side of the River…. Absalom WEST, publisher.

View of a part of the Town of Parramatta in New South Wales Taken from the North Side of the River…

Sydney: A. West, November 30 1812.

Engraving; Paper size approx. 310 mm. x 405 mm. Printed lower right below image in black ink, 'Engraved by W.Presston[Sic]'. Printed lower left below image in black ink, 'Drawn by J.Eyre.'. Printed lower centre below image in black ink, 'Published Novr 30th 1812 by A West Sydney.'. Printed, lower centre below image in black ink, 'View of PART of the TOWN of PARRAMATTA in New South Wales. / taken from the North Side of the River / Dedicated to his Excellency Lachlan Macquarie, Esq. Governor of Nw South Wales. &c. &c. &c.'. Printed upper left above image in black ink, 'No.11'; mounted.

One of the first landscape views to be published in Australia

This fine and exceedingly rare engraved view of Parramatta is based on an original painting by one of the colony's first artists, John Eyre, and was published by Absalom West in Sydney as part of the most fascinating and enigmatic publishing project of the Macquarie period. Dedicated to Macquarie, West's impressive and creative work, the series of Views that he commissioned, was the first artistic publication in New South Wales and would have a long-lasting influence on colonial art.

This fine and exceedingly rare engraved view of Parramatta is based on an original painting by one of the colony's first artists, John Eyre, and was published by Absalom West in Sydney as part of the most fascinating and enigmatic publishing project of the Macquarie period. Dedicated to Macquarie, West's impressive and creative work, the series of Views that he commissioned, was the first artistic publication in New South Wales and would have a long-lasting influence on colonial art.

West was a successful emancipist businessman and very well-connected, associating with everyone from William Bligh to John Lewin, and particularly friendly with the artists John Eyre and Richard Browne. He clearly had great vision as a promoter and organiser, able to imagine a vast project which relied equally on the artistic skills of some of his close friends and on the technical ability of the two newly arrived convict artisans who prepared all the engraved plates in his series of Views, Walter Preston and Philip Slaeger.

Although West's Views are much studied, and despite their acknowledged significance in terms of the development of artistic publishing in the colony, they remain something of a mystery. Indeed, on paper, it is difficult to think of a more unlikely project: West, who had only been given his ticket-of leave in 1810 after a 14-year stint as a convict brewer, suddenly announces, without notice or much fanfare, that he will be publishing a series of large-format views of New South Wales, to be sold at his pub at the end of the road to Dawes Point, the "Blue Lion Inn".

Whatever the genesis of the project, West revolutionized the visual history of the colony. In terms of separately issued landscape views, the main precursors to his work were the distant publications of William Standen Blake (1802) and Francis Jukes (1804). It is important to note that unlike West's remarkable achievements from the earliest days of a nascent publishing culture in New South Wales, the work of Jukes and Blake were engraved and published in the ultra-sophisticated environment of London.

The importance of the Absalom West engravings is the singular fact that these exceptionally rare views are the first to be produced in colonial Australia. In Sydney, West and his confrères had none of the advantages of working in London: to the contrary, one of the few contemporary notices of the project stressed that their press had been constructed by a workman "who had never before seen such a machine" (quoted in Roger Butler, Printed Images in Colonial Australia, p. 26). The fact that West was successful is an indication that very few of the English-published prints made it to Australia. More significant still, no English project of the era had anywhere near the audacious scale of this engraving, View of a part of the Town of Parramatta in New South Wales.

The artist responsible for most of the original drawings from which West's views were engraved was John Eyre. Convicted of housebreaking, he had been sentenced to transportation for seven years, arriving in Sydney in 1801 on the Canada; by 1804 he had been granted a conditional pardon. In July of that year, he placed an advertisement in the Sydney Gazette that he wished to buy a box of watercolours; in 1810 he was an established though struggling artist. His best-known work, apart from the engraved West views, is the series of illustrations that he sent to London which were engraved for The Present Picture of New South Wales by D.D. Mann (London, 1811). In August 1812 Eyre advertised again in the Gazette, this time announcing his intention of leaving the colony for Europe "at the Earliest opportunity"; no record of this accomplished artist exists after this time. The other important figure in Absalom West's ambitious project was the skilled engraver Walter Preston. Also a convict, Preston became an assigned servant to West.

View of Part of the Town of Parramatta, in New South Wales, Taken from the North Side of the River number 11 in West's series, was published on 30 November 1812. It offers a dramatic depiction taken from the north shore of the Parramatta River, looking southward towards the main part of the settlement and is an honest appraisal of how the town actually looked: the field of stumps points to the rapid rate of expansion at the time. The figures grouped in the foreground make a curious tableau with, at left, a settler who is apparently a type of shepherd, and a grouping of five Aboriginal figures in the middle ground. The scene doesn't have the finished symmetry of the images of Parramatta included in the first volume of Collins' Account of the Colony… published in 1798 in London and clearly prepared for an English audience. West's engraving portrays the "real" Parramatta of 1812.

Any of the rare engravings published by Absalom West are extremely important to the iconography of early landscape art of early Sydney; this one of Parramatta with wide margins and the title caption intact resonates with historical detail.

Provenance: Private collection of Mr Owen Esmond Friend, exhibited at the Royal Australian Historical Society, 1943 (no. 36); thence by descent.

Ferguson 570a; First Views of Australia 136

Condition Report: In very good original condition, laid down on Japanese tissue.

Price (AUD): $48,000.00

US$34,201.59   Other currencies

Ref: #4504651

Condition Report