Whilst searching through the archives of the State Library of New South Wales, I came across a rather exciting find. It was a monochromatic watercolour painting of Christmas Island as viewed from the sea.
I was excited because the painting was dated 2nd September 1830!
Click on the image below for an enlargement.
Christmas Island near Java – 2 Septr. 1830 bearg [i.e. bearing] S.W. for S. dist 8 miles
Could this be the first painting of Christmas Island? If it isn’t, it must certainly be at least one of the first. There was even a watermark on the paper of the paper maker: “J. Whatman, Turkey Mill, 1830”. Whilst there have been other earlier depictions of Christmas Island they have been in a printed lithographic/engraving style.
Interestingly, on the following day after this painting, the 3rd September 1830 the same artist painted Prince’s Island in the Sundra Strait and the following day after that a painting of Crockotoa Island (an old spelling of Krakatoa).
The Christmas Island painting was part of a collection (52 items in all) of views predominantly of Sydney, Liverpool, and the Sunda Straits, and portraits. It was presented to the State Library of New South Wales by Mrs. E. Fuller in memory of her husband, Capt. A.W.F. Fuller in 1963.
Within the collection is a handwritten note regarding provenance that applies to drawings no. 1 to 30 and this includes the Christmas Island painting at No. 14.
“This little collection of
most valuable Australian,
& water-col. & pencil drawings,
were taken by me from a
scrap book album made by
the Revd. Archdeacon Scott of
Whitfield Rectory, 7 m. N.N.E.
from Alston & 10 m. S.W. from Hexham,
Northumberland, between c. 1833
15 Octr. 1949”
Who was the Revd. Archdeacon Scott?
“Thomas Hobbes Scott, Church of England clergyman, was appointed secretary to his relation by marriage, John Thomas Bigge, during the official investigation into the administration of the colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land, 1819-1821.”
Reference: Australian Dictionary of Biography. Vol.1, 1788-1850. Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1967
I will research some more and see if I can find a list of ships that may have visited Christmas Island in 1830. It would be nice to know the ship that the artist was travelling on. Unfortunately, the artist’s name is unknown.