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Ship portraits




The Museum holds an extensive collection of ship portraits in oil, watercolour, pen and ink, and pencil. Most are by South Australian marine artists and capture the ships and ketches that worked in local waters. The collection includes over forty nineteenth century ship portraits, many by notable local marine artists such as George Bourne, Frederick Dawson, and George Frederick Gregory. Twentieth century artists represented in the collection include Harold Dalton Hall and Port Adelaide based artist, Charles Henry Moore. Most of these works were transferred to the Museum from the Port Adelaide Nautical Museum, an institution with origins that stem back to 1872.

This collection comprises detailed representations of historic ketches, windjammers and passenger liners. Along with ship models, they enable audiences to understand the configuration and function of these historic but now redundant vessels. The collection includes twenty-three watercolours by George Bourne (1851 - ) an itinerant artist who shifted between Western Australia and South Australia, painting a number of finely executed watercolours of barques, brigs, schooners and ketches in South Australia during the 1880s. It is one of the most comprehensive collections of Bourne's work held by any Australian institution. The collection comprises sixteen watercolours by Frederick Dawson who worked as a painter of ships from the 1890s to the 1920s. Dawson taught in Port Adelaide and captured some of the most significant coastal traders and ketches working in South Australian coastal waters. Early twentieth century artists include South Australian marine artist and model maker Harold Dalton Hall (1881 - 1946) who worked in oil, watercolour, pen and ink. Harold joined the South Australian Navy and worked on the colonial naval vessel Protector as a cabin boy in 1894. While Dalton Hall undertook some training with Adelaide art teacher James Ashton, he was largely self taught. His paintings are distinctive in the use of rich colours and his attention to detail. Charles Henry Moore was a clerk with the Adelaide Steamship Company in Port Adelaide and executed a number of pencils sketches on paper of ships at sea during the early twentieth century. The museum holds sixteen of his works.

The portraits represent some of the most famous vessels that operated in South Australian waters. Prior to the advent of photography, portraits often provided the only visual record of ships. Artists were often connected with the ships they depicted or commissioned to paint them as portable souvenirs for ships' crews, families and owners. Some portraits were executed by sailors who served on these vessels and these romantic if naïve depictions reflect their deep sentimental attachment to their homes at sea. The portraits depict some of the most significant ships in South Australian maritime history including the colonial naval vessel HMC Protector, the record breaking tea clipper Thermopylae and the ill-fated Star of Greece. Over 800 shipwrecks litter the South Australian coastline and several of the portraits capture maritime tragedies including the sinking of the Star of Greece off Port Willunga in 1888. These works are often the only visual record we have of maritime disaster and while not painted during the event, reflect contemporary reportage and provide insights into how deeply those tragedies resonated in the wider community. The collection includes a rich selection of work from some of South Australia's most prolific and talented marine artists including George Bourne, Frederick Dawson, Harold Dalton Hall, and Charles Henry Moore.

A South Australian Maritime Museum collection. Approximately fifteen ship portraits are on display in the Museum and administration building. Most are in storage and accessible by appointment only.


Artworks; Oil paintings; Watercolour paintings

Boats; Ink painting; Maritime history; Oil painting; Painting; Pen drawing; Pencil drawing; Portraits; Ships; Shipwrecks; Watercolour painting

Charles Henry Moore; Frederick Dawson; George Bourne; George Frederick Gregory; Harold Dalton Hall; Port Adelaide Nautical Museum; South Australian Maritime Museum

Charles Moore; Frederick Dawson; George Bourne; George Frederick Gregory; Harold Dalton Hall; Ketch; Liner; Oil painting; Ship portrait; Sketch; Watercolour

Drawing (art); Marine accidents; Oil paintings; Paintings; Portraits; Shipwrecks; Souvenirs; Vessels (watercraft); Watercolours

Coverage Spatial

South Australia; Port Adelaide, South Australia

Coverage Temporal



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2011-03-23 15:42