Painting, St. Thomas Church Port Macquarie; Samuel Augustus Perry; c1831; 2016.0...
Painting, St. Thomas Church Port MacquarieAbout this object
This small watercolour painting of St. Thomas Church Port Macquarie was painted by Samuel Augustus Perry [1791-1854] c1831. The painting is unsigned.
Perry was born in Wales and spent most of his youth in London before being appointed ensign in the Royal Staff Corps in June 1809. He served in the Peninsular War and together with Captain William Dumaresq was responsible for returning to Venice, the four bronze horses of St Mark’s that Napoleon had removed to Paris.
He married Caroline Elizabeth Johnson of London on 12 April 1817 and between 1819 and 1823 held the appointment (on half pay) of professor of topographical drawing at the Royal Military College. After serving in the West Indies as private secretary and aide-de-camp to Governor Major -General William Nicolay, where he created a number of sketches and watercolour views, Perry was appointed deputy surveyor general of New South Wales. Together with his wife and six children, Samuel Augustus Perry arrived in Sydney on the barque Sovereign, on 3 August 1829.
Sir Thomas Mitchell, surveyor general of NSW did not welcome Perry’s appointment as deputy surveyor and often prevented Perry from performing much of his duties however Perry retained the role for over twenty years. In August 1852 Perry was given leave due to ill health and he retired in October the following year. Perry and his wife moved to Kiama, where Mrs Perry died in late 1853 and Perry on 15 January 1854.
Perry’s artistic skills were recognised by his appointment to teach topographical drawing to young officers at the Royal Military College. His works were mostly watercolour landscapes, ranging from open countryside to waterfalls, including scenes on the Spanish Peninsula and in the West Indies. In New South Wales, Perry painted a view of the original Austenham House (the Perry family home at Spring Cove, now Leichhardt) and a scene showing the Perry and Marlay families at Government House. Perry was a member of the management committee for the second exhibition of the Society for the Promotion of the Fine Arts in Australia held at Sydney in 1849 and showed several paintings at the exhibition. The Sydney Morning Herald describing his work as ‘…the production of an artist who has studied nature intently…’
Perry sketched this landscape during an excursion to Port Macquarie in November 1830 to February 1831 to check on the work of Ralfe and D’Arcy in surveying land grants for free settlers. The work informed the official plan of the town. Perry spent almost three months at Port Macquarie due to a cyclonic low that brought flooding rains, restricted shipping and effectively isolated the settlement. It is likely that he coloured it with his paints on his return to Sydney.
Perry kept a diary of his journey and on Sunday 19 December 1830 recorded his observations about St Thomas Church: ‘…Went to Church, which is large enough to hold five times the present congregation. It is substantially built and well proportioned, but very properly no attempt at Architectural display….’. It is likely that Perry sketched the Church shortly after his visit there and whilst he was waiting at the settlement for a Sydney bound ship. The watercolour appears to have been sketched from the area known today as Windmill Hill, a short distance south of the Flagstaff. Perhaps Perry sketched it whilst looking out for passing ships. He may also have sketched the scene to record the settlement at that time, before it changed as free settlers moved in to take up their land grants and recognising the impact that free settlement would have on the mostly untouched landscape.
It was not unusual for surveyors to draw sketches and paint scenes whist working, particularly to illustrate the flora, fauna and landscapes they came across. Few paintings of Port Macquarie exist from this period and no others of either the settlement or St Thomas Church are known to exist from this perspective. Whilst it is likely that Perry sketched many landscapes of Port Macquarie and surrounds during his visit, no others are known to exist today.
This beautiful watercolour is a rare painting of Port Macquarie by accomplished colonial landscape artist, surveyor and soldier Samuel Augustus Perry.
20 December 2016
c1831Medium and Materials
180mm W, 130mm H
Purchased: Port Macquarie Historical SocietyObject Type
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