"Sandridge Railway Jetty and Pier, Melbourne, Victoria 1858".

Melbourne: 1858.

Oil on academy board, 207 x 310 mm; signed, dated and inscribed on verso 'Artist / Mr Cust / 1858 / An Original Painting of / Sandridge Railway Jetty and Pier, / Melbourne Victoria'.

A Victorian jewel; Port Phillip in the 1850s Gold Rush

A small masterpiece: "Mr." Cust, an elusive artist whose first name is so far unknown, demonstrates with meticulous strokes an ability to conjure a sensation of intimacy and tranquility on the smallest of scale. His work is reminiscent in this respect of some of the paintings of S.T. Gill; like Gill he combines a strong understanding of light and colour with a high degree of natural, artistic talent. This sensitively rendered painting is on academy board, to which Cust has painstakingly applied layer after layer of oil paint.

A small masterpiece: "Mr." Cust, an elusive artist whose first name is so far unknown, demonstrates with meticulous strokes an ability to conjure a sensation of intimacy and tranquility on the smallest of scale. His work is reminiscent in this respect of some of the paintings of S.T. Gill; like Gill he combines a strong understanding of light and colour with a high degree of natural, artistic talent. This sensitively rendered painting is on academy board, to which Cust has painstakingly applied layer after layer of oil paint.

Like so many others, it is possible that Cust arrived in Victoria as a result of the discovery of gold in 1851. Shipping records note a W. Cust arriving in 1858 from Adelaide, while in 1854 a J. Cust arrived from Launceston. It was during the 1840s, in the early days of La Trobe's appointment as Superintendent of the Port Phillip District, that the first artistic flurry began, continuing into the gold rush decade of the 1850s and La Trobe's governorship from 1851; prior to this period there are notably few visual records of Melbourne. This evocative, newly discovered painting of Melbourne's port, constructed in the former swampland of Sandridge, captures the frenzy of expansion on the seafront. In 1854 the new "Railway Pier", later renamed "Station Pier", was built and sleek clippers and the first steamships, still carrying full sails, clustered in the bay bringing passengers and cargo both into and out of Port Phillip. New piers were constructed to handle the enormous influx of immigrants: Victoria's population exploded between 1851 and 1861 with 584,000 people migrating to Victoria, most by sea.

The new railway line, built in 1852, employed Australia's first steam passenger-train, connecting Port Melbourne to the city proper. The vast extent of commercial activity is captured in this painting; building materials, crates and barrels are being sorted in the foreground under ominous black clouds; ships in full sail and a harbour chockfull with moored vessels are superbly captured by "Mr." Cust -- it is a moment captured in time, painted directly from observation, and giving one of the very few visual accounts of maritime infrastructure and its expansion in the colony brought about by the discovery of gold.

The inscription on the verso identifies "Mr Cust" and notes that the painting was priced "Five guineas framed". It carries the engraved label of Chas. Yorke, cabinet maker of 227 Elizabeth St. Melbourne and in manuscript the name "Stedman", who may perhaps have been an early owner. The Sands & Kenny directory of 1858 lists a Charles E. Stedman as a solicitor at 21 Eldon Chambers, Bank Place, 77, Collins Street West.

Provenance: Private Collection, United Kingdom.

Price (AUD): $148,000.00  other currencies     Ref: #4504822

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