The Australian National Maritime Museum is responsible for the National Maritime Collection and includes paintings, posters, maps, prints, objects and vessels that showcase the history and diversity of maritime cultures in Australia and the world.
Visual art ranges from traditional depictions of ships and port infrastructure to works by contemporary artists who explore our relationship with the sea.
From June 7, the museum, as part of its 30e anniversary, presents some of the jewels of the National Collection, the first of which are four major works, on display for the next 6 months.
The Red Jacket at Hobson’s Bay, Captain Thomas Robertson, 1856-1857
The Red Jacket, one of the largest and fastest clippers, was built in 1853 by George Thomas of Rockland, Maine, USA. It was commissioned by the British White Star Line to designs by American Donald McKay. The Red Jacket broke the transatlantic crossing speed record on its maiden voyage to Liverpool, to be outfitted for the Australian Immigration Service.
In the era of clippers, rivalry between shipping companies was fierce, with large sums of money at stake over the fastest ship. Red Jacket broke a record of just 69 days in its first race between Great Britain and Melbourne. The table includes clippers James Baines, who then sailed to Melbourne in 65 days, and Lightning. These three ships, all designed by Donald McKay, represented the pinnacle of clipper design and construction.
City of Hobart 1856, Henry Gritten, 1856
The original European occupation of Australia relied solely on ships to transport people, freight and mail until the 20th century. The city of Hobart was established as a penal colony in 1803 at a deep water port on the River Derwent.
This depiction of the town by Henry Gritten was painted in 1856, the same year the settlement changed its name from Van Diemen’s Land to Tasmania. It shows how, within 50 years, Hobart was attracting international shipping, including a fast three-masted US-flagged clipper that could carry passengers and cargo around the world.
The Great White Fleet Entering Sydney Harbor by the Heads, Rupert Bunny, circa 1908
US President Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet circumnavigated the globe from 1907 to 1909. Comprising up to 16 battleships painted white, it demonstrated America’s goodwill and coming as a power world naval.
The fleet’s visit to Sydney, Melbourne and Albany in 1908 at the request of Prime Minister Alfred Deakin met with immense public support. It also marked a new era in Australian defense policy, which now included the United States.
The Gospel Boat, 19th Century
Life for sailors in the 19th century could be dissolute and dangerous. The Gospel Ship, carrying biblical messages, was a means of reaching and connecting Christian values to the lives of seafarers.
This charcoal-on-linen drawing was salvaged from a hotel in Hobart, Tasmania, before it was demolished in the 1970s.
/Public release. This material from the original organization/authors may be ad hoc in nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors.