Category Archives: Current events

The GG, the Judge and the Prince

Were you, like me, transfixed by the extract in Saturday’s Age from Jenny Hocking’s upcoming second volume of the Whitlam biography? Were you reading, spoon hovering betwixt your Vita Brits and mouth, eyebrows rising higher and higher?  Or is it just me? – a sign that I’ve hanging around reading about colonial judges, self-government and the colonial judiciary for too long?

In writing this second volume, Jenny Hocking has used interviews and, according to the publisher’s website, “previously unearthed archival material” including the papers of Sir John Kerr, the Governor-General who was central to the dismissal of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1975. According to the video interview with Jenny Hocking on the Age website, Sir John Kerr’s personal papers had been deposited in the National Archives some time ago, but had not been opened previously.  This might explain why  no-one had seen it before:  the now-deceased Kerr’s intrusion of himself into the archive as he set down the role – unknown until now-  played by Sir Anthony Mason, a sitting judge of the High Court of Australia and a pro-chancellor of the Australian National University.

Kerr wrote:

In the light of the enormous and vicious criticism of myself I should have dearly liked to have had the public evidence during my lifetime of what Mason had said and done during October-November 1975 [but] he would be happier…if history never came to know of his role.

I shall keep the whole matter alive in my mind till the end, and if this document is found among my archives, it will mean that my final decision is that truth must prevail, and, as he played a most significant part in my thinking at that critical time, and as he will be in the shades of history when this is read, his role should be known.

Apart from the Pauline Hanson ‘death video’ overtones of this document, the intervention of Sir John’s voice into the archive reminds us that an archive is always a constructed entity- not necessarily by the subject of the archive, but by someone scooping up, harvesting, organizing or in this case, shaping the material that appears there.   Is this the vanity of a puffed-up man, piqued that others escaped the opprobrium he attracted, and determined that his version should surface eventually? A final manipulation or final confession? A determination to share the credit or spread the blame?  Or is this a man with an eye to history, anxious that ‘the truth’ as he saw it was documented?

Whatever his approach to history, he did at least have one, unlike Sir Anthony who refused Kerr’s entreaties to make his role public.

Mason’s view, as he still maintained when pressed on these matters nearly 40 years later was, “I owe history nothing”.

What an extraordinary statement!  I still have it rattling round in my head, as I try out different permutations and explanations of it.  What on earth did he mean? Does he “owe history nothing” because he feels he was vindicated? Does he see it as a purely personal, private matter? Does he feel that he has already done enough for history?  Does he somehow see the judicial sphere completely divorced from the political arena, or does history have its own great sweep, unaffected by the actions of individual men? (in this case I use ‘men’ very deliberately). I note that even though he might owe history nothing, he now feels that he owes it to himself ( if he felt inclined to use such a quaintly 19th century Colonial Office phrase) to set the record straight in an article in the next day’s paper where he acknowledges his involvement but emphasizes that he advised Kerr ignored his advice that Whitlam should be forewarned of Kerr’s plans.

The final revelation that made me finally put down my spoon and read even more closely was the appearance of Prince Charles into the imbroglio. Sir John Kerr had met Prince Charles the year before, and engaged with him on a discussion of the possibility of Prince Charles himself being appointed Governor-General of Australia. In September 1975, some two months before the dismissal, the paths of the Governor General and the Prince crossed again in Port Moresby at a ceremony to mark the transition to an independent Papua New Guinea.

Kerr took this previous interaction to suggest a personal connection to the Prince of Wales and now, as the two met against in Port Moresby, the governor-general took the extreme step of raising with the prince the possible dismissal of the Whitlam government and his grave fears that he would himself be dismissed by Whitlam should he do so.

Apparently oblivious to constitutional expectations, Charles replied, according to Kerr’s notes of their exchange “But surely Sir John, the Queen should not have to accept advice that you should be recalled at the very time, should this happen when you were considering having to dismiss the government.”

Prince Charles at this time was 27 years old, no longer the gangly schoolboy of his Timbertop days.  For a man raised from birth to become King, and who could have been discreetly tapped on the shoulder the very next moment to be told exactly that, his ignorance of the constitutional parameters of his role is astounding.  If nothing else, silence would have been an appropriate response.  It was as if 150 years of responsible government and the principle that the governor takes his advice from the popularly elected prime minister just dropped away in a private conversation.

I found it impossible to read these extracts without my historian’s hat on.  I can only imagine the heart-stopping moment for Jenny Hocking when this document reached out- “Historian- look here!”- from the archived collection of a man obviously intent on moulding his own place in history.  I found so many parallels with my own work, too, in the conjunction of big, historical events and the vanities and networks of individual men; the careful legal language that rather inadequately veils ego and ambition; the importance of the dinner party and the whispered conversation within the ostensibly transparent political structures.  Definitely the best breakfast read I’ve had in a long, long time.

A pleasant Sunday afternoon trip to …Kinglake

I hadn’t revisited any of the places burnt out during the Black Saturday fires of 2009.  I think of them often though.  Standing in my dressing gown on foggy winter mornings as I go out to get the paper, I often think of Marysville where I spent several September school holidays as a child.  The air has that same cold, wet feel, and you can smell the soil and the trees.  I would dearly love to be able to return to stay in a little faux-Tudor guest house with a name starting ‘Mary…’.  Marylands, Mary Lyn- it wouldn’t matter really.  But the economics of the guest house concept, fire regulations, demands for ensuites and the sophistication that sneers at the joys of table-tennis and croquet etc. will conspire to make this an impossibility, I’m afraid.

But Kinglake is still there, just up the road a bit.  For a long time I felt reluctant to go there just to rubber-neck, and I still do feel a little voyeuristic.  But three years have passed, and I know that Kinglake is “open for business” and perhaps I don’t need to feel so diffident any more.

It’s still fairly clear as you drive along the Kinglake Rd that there has been a large fire here.  The bright green furze that grew onto the tree trunks over the first winter has now faded to a more normal eucalyptus green and many small sapling are growing underneath the burnt out trunks.

A number of bushfire-recovery services started up in the wake of the fires.  They are still there.

The Kinglake Ranges Rebuilding Advisory Centre and Community Facility

The new CFA (Country Fire Authority) building is big, new and prominent

The temporary village has almost been dismantled. You can see by the roads and power outlets that it had been much bigger

The sheer scale of the fire is most apparent when you see a whole mountain still bare covered with what looks like matchsticks.




Earthquakes in Melbourne

The big news here in Melbourne is that last night we experienced an earthquake measuring 5.3 in magnitude, the largest in 100 years.

The Port Phillip Herald of 11 June 1841 reported an earthquake too:

On Sunday last, during the hours of divine service, a rumbling noise was heard in the earth, supposed to be the forerunner of an earthquake.  In the church it was distinctly heard, and the congregation alarmed; also in several parts of the town, giving rise to various speculations upon the subject.

And well might they speculate. Seismology as a discipline was at a rudimentary stage, with the development of monitoring equipment still some decades in the future. The good people of Port Phillip in 1841, who had only been settling in substantial  numbers since 1835, were not to know whether this new frontier was earthquake-prone or not. On the other hand, perhaps it was just a rattling good sermon…

Napoleon at the NGV International

Stop press: Napoleon invades Melbourne! Well, not really.  The National Gallery of Victoria’s Winter Masterpiece exhibition this year is an exhibition focussing on all things Napoleonesque, with a bit of an Antipodean twist.

This exhibition differs from recent exhibitions in that it could just as easily be mounted in a museum as in an art gallery, because it encompasses history, artefact, literature, the visual arts, the decorative arts, music and costume.  And it’s very, very good.

If you’re not familiar with the French Revolution and its connection to Napoleon, the exhibition has a strong chronological narrative in its explanation panels- and I think they may have used a slightly larger font because they are legible from some way back.  The exhibition starts with the Ancien Regime, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and spends quite a bit of time on the cultural milieu and decorative fashions of their era. It then moves on to a brief explanation of the rapid swings of political fortune leading up to the Terror, then focusses on Napoleon himself.  When you stand before pictures of Napoleon’s coronation, you are struck by the similarity in excess and symbolism of Napoleonic Imperialism and that of the Royal Family just two tumultuous, exhilarating, blood-soaked decades earlier.  I spoke to a woman who was waiting outside the exhibition  “Is Napoleon a goodie or a baddie?” she asked.  It’s very hard to say.

For there is blood here.  The revolutionary pike was chilling in its simplicity, and the towering height of the Revolutionary Army soldier uniforms reminded me that this was politics through blood and warfare.  Then you see a small, red-covered printed copy of the French Constitution in a slip cover that reminded me of a little prayer book.  Words and blood.

Napoleon, just like the Royal Family before him (and indeed the Royal Family we are witnessing at the Diamond Jubilee today) knew the power of branding.  Painters manipulated history in creating the most dramatic images possible, as all painters of historical portraits are wont to do.  Napoleon and his revolutionary predecessors reached back into classical history to align themselves with Roman emperors, and bedecked themselves, their furniture, their clothes with classical symbols- the fasces (the bundle of rods with an axe) to denote power,and the bee to indicate immortality and resurrection, and -most significantly for a Corsican army general of rather unprepossessing lineage- royalty.

The exhibition has a particular emphasis on Australia, which may seem surprising at first blush.  However, in the earliest pages of white British possession of Australia, there is a strong ‘what-if’ thread that challenges the overwhelmingly British nature of our history.  On January 24 1788 the French frigates La Boussole and L’Astrolabe, commanded by the Comte de la Perouse arrived off the coast of Botany Bay, in the same week that Capt Arthur Phillip arrived there.  Bruni d’Entrecasteaux explored the coast of Tasmania in 1792 and his presence lingers in the naming of many places along the Tasmanian coast. In the brief period of cessation of hostilities after the Treaty of Amiens in 1802, Nicolas Baudin mapped the western and southern coasts of New Holland- and there it is in the exhibition- a clearly depicted and labelled map of our southern coast with familiar landmarks with unfamiliar French names (although I note that Port Phillip was still labelled as such).  Instead of being an exclusively British possession, Australia could so easily have included French territories- and how both our internal and international politics and history would have been different as a result.  Louis XVI was obsessed by the disappearance of La Perouse when he sailed out of Sydney after that initial, friendly six-week meeting between British and French navies at the extremes of southern exploration, never to be seen again.  Empress Josephine encouraged the introduction of Australian plants and animals into the gardens of Malmaison, and Napoleon took with him to his exile at St Helena his copy of James Cooks’ journals of explorations.

I happily spent two hours in this exhibition that is much more than just paintings.  Several of the exhibits were already owned by the NGV and I’ve probably swept past them before, not realizing their significance or context.  Well worth a visit.

A rainy day at the NGV

It’s cold and wet, in the way that winter days used to be.  Three years ago, in the midst of drought, I was wondering if I’d ever see one of these wet days from my childhood again- the ones where you wake up to the sound of rain that just goes on and on.  But here a rainy day is back, although I note from the weather segment that once again this rain is courtesy of low pressure troughs moving down from the north, quite unlike the across-the-Nullabor weather patterns that I’ve been used to all my life.

Weather notwithstanding, off we toddled to the National Gallery of Victoria to take advantage of the members’ free entry today to the Fred Williams exhibition. I really don’t know why I keep going back to the Fed Square gallery (other than being forced to if I want to see particular exhibitions) because it always enrages me.  My chagrin starts with the cobbled, windswept forecourt. It is bleak in winter and baking in summer, uneven, and slopes upwards onto an artificially created hill that ensures that the whole Federation Square complex completely blocks any sight of the river.  It amuses me that the so-called ‘accessibility’ markers that denote a slightly smoother path  are themselves virtually indistinguishable from the rest of the cobblestones.

Then, how to get into the damned gallery?  You’ve got to hand it to the NGV- in both the Fed Square and the International Galleries, the doors are squirrelled away out of sight- I mean, you wouldn’t want anyone to come IN would you?

Having solved the mystery of getting in to the gallery, and having passed the highly prominent and clearly-sign posted shop (the only thing, along with the ticket box, that is clearly signposted in the whole building)  your next task is to work out how to get upstairs, as the exhibition you want is most certainly upstairs.  Ah- there’s the escalator- a little single-file, one-way escalator tucked away in a corner.  You want to go down again? I’m yet to find the down-escalator, but I have found the wooden staircase that has the steps sawn off at an angle like spiral steps, but in a squared, boxlike structure.  Or there’s another staircase that just goes on and on and on upwards- oddly I’ve never found how to get down again.  Isn’t there some regulation about landings in staircases??

Exhibition seen, now for coffee! There’s the cafe with a narrow window that looks out onto the river- well, it would if it weren’t covered with artistically hung black mesh.  What goes in, must come out-so where ARE the toilets? Ah, there’s a subtle little sign over in the corner, virtually indistinguishable.  The door opens into a stygian darkness, which lifts slightly over the cubicles, but barely enough to detect the flush buttons that are mere engravings on the stainless steel walls.  The whole place is so damned impractical and must break every possible regulation in terms of accessibility and safety.  I have no idea how they could evacuate the building in an emergency. It’s architectural pretension run amok.

Am I in a bad mood today? Perhaps I am.  Let’s just say that I’m glad I had free entry to the Fred Williams exhibition.  I’m with Robert Nelson on this one- his review Dogged dabs of a blobby dazzler pretty much sums it up for me.

Fortunately my rainy day at the NGV was saved by “Intimate Landscapes”, the Fred Kruger exhibition of photographs– no, not the Nightmare on Elm Street Freddy Krueger, but instead the German photographer who worked in Victoria between 1860s-80s.  He was a travelling commercial photographer who was contracted, among other things, to photograph the Aboriginal people living at Coranderrk mission, near Healesville for the Aborigines Protection Board.  His photographs, intended to highlight the industry of the inhabitants, and the success of the mission, are freighted with all the “dying race” and “clean and useful” philosophies of the time.  He also took photographs of bridges, reservoirs, and rivers, often with small human figures alongside.  In a feat of organisation, he took a large group shot of literally hundreds of school children outside Flinders Primary School in 1880- you can see it here.   There are street shots of Queenscliff, Geelong and Ballarat as well. Fascinating, and well worth the cobblestones and steps, clammy umbrellas and wet socks.

Scrambling for the dictionary

In my mind’s eye I can see streams of puzzled Age readers heading to their bookshelves this morning and dusting off their dictionaries. The headline  “Dignified, tasteful epithets for hero” over a report of Jim Stynes’ funeral yesterday certainly jarred me. Doesn’t ‘epithet’ describe a term of abuse? Did they mean ‘epitaph’ instead?

Apparently not, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, which defines it as:

a. An adjective indicating some quality or attribute which the speaker or writer regards as characteristic of the person or thing described.

2. A significant appellation

3. A term, phrase or expression (obsolete)

And ah! there it is- under “Draft Additions 1993”

b. An offensive or derogatory expression used of a person; an offensive term; a profanity.

Well, well- there I was thinking that the headline was just plain wrong and inappropriate.  Do newspapers still have an educative function in teaching us the precise meanings of words (if indeed they ever did)? I’d like to think so, but given the sloppy proof-reading dished up in issue after issue, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Why this man is the quintessential Opposition leader

Margaret Whitlam died yesterday, aged 92.

Here’s what our Opposition Leader had to say:

On behalf of the Coalition, I offer my deep condolences to Gough Whitlam on the passing of Margaret. Margaret was a marvellous consort to a very significant Labor leader and an epochal Australian Prime Minister. There was a lot wrong with the Whitlam Government, but nevertheless it was a very significant episode in our history and Margaret Whitlam was a very significant element in the political success of Gough Whitlam. She was a great patron of the arts, she was a woman of style and substance and we should mourn her passing as we extend our deep sympathies to her friends, to her family and especially to her husband.

What does sexism look like?  When a woman can spend sixty years in public life and still be defined almost solely by her husband. Just thirteen words about her.

What does obsession look like? When even in extending condolences, he cannot help himself plunging the knife and twisting it.

Susan Ryan, former Labor minister:

It sounds an old-fashioned thing to say these days, but women were supposed to be in a servile relationship with their husbands, particularly if you were married to a famous man.  You were seen as the consort, whereas Margaret saw it as an opportunity to be engaged.

What does old fashioned look like? “She was a marvellous consort to a very significant Labor leader and epochal Prime Minister”.

What does churlishness look like? When we “should” mourn her passing, not that we “do”.   We do mourn her passing. We do.

‘Dickens’ Women’ with Miriam Margolyes

Having recently read Colonial Voices, I was very much aware of what an anachronistic performance Miriam Margolyes’ ‘Dickens’ Women’ is.  Generations past may have been the audience for a series of readings and impersonations, but it seems a particularly quaint genre now: a “nice night’s entertainment” as Barry Humphries’ Sandy Stone might have said.

But to describe this performance as merely “readings and impersonations” is to undersell it, because it is more like a theatrical essay, with a clear argument that is supported by the anecdotes and examples that she weaves into the work.  She argues that Dickens wove his own biography into the female characters he created, colouring them with his own anger, sense of betrayal, and often misogyny.  She moves back and forwards from argument and explication, to readings and then to performance of both male and female characters, sometimes in soliloquy, sometimes in dialogue.

The performance opens with Sairey Gamp from Martin Chuzzlewit, and I must admit that it took me a couple of minutes to recognize and recollect her.  Would I know who she was playing each time? I wondered, aware that even though I have read quite a few Dickens, I haven’t read them all and I often forget which character appeared where.  But I need not have feared: she wove into the narrative a clear identification of who each character was, often with a bit of contextualizing information.  It didn’t matter that I hadn’t read Dombey and Son, or The Uncommercial Traveller or The Old Curiosity Shop.

Margolyes has been performing this show since 1989 and it is a very tight, confident performance.  In creating her 23 characters, she uses everything – her body, her beautiful clear voice, timing, lighting, gesture and stance- and at times, she almost seemed to change physically before your eyes.  I found myself scarcely daring to breathe watching her embody Miss Havisham, afraid that the spell would break.  It didn’t.

A very nice night’s entertainment indeed.

My Prime Minister and Sexism

Thank you, Anne Summers, for your article “The gender agenda: Gillard and the politics of sexism” in today’s Age.  I have written, and then discarded several posts on this blog on this very topic, unsure whether I wanted to insert a current political event into what is, on reflection, a rather rag-tag blog.  But Anne Summers, among other things,  is a historian (author of Damned Whores and Gods Police)  and her article encapsulated many of the things that I have sensed about the treatment of Julia Gillard.  And, as I am working through in my own thesis about Judge Willis, “personality” is the most slippery and yet visceral factor in leadership, and when it lies at the heart of a dismissal, it is one of the hardest things to prove.  It is nowhere and it is everywhere.

I have not agreed with everything that Julia Gillard has done (her treatment of Wilkie is a case in point) but I am immensely proud of her as Australia’s first female  Prime Minister.  She is graceful under pressure, she has managed to negotiate with the cross-benchers, and as she has said over and over the last few days, she got things done.  The carbon tax, the mining profits tax, the tapering off of subsidies to private health insurance- these are big policies, passed in the teeth of trenchant criticism by vested interests with very, very deep pockets.  Kevin Rudd did not deliver these: she did.

I was one of the ALP voters who started rolling her eyes and slumping once Rudd began to speak as Prime Minister.  If you look back at my response to his speech at the Bushfire Memorial Service back in 1999 here and again here,  I was troubled by his tin ear and nationalistic grandstanding even then.  Everything was talked up, but nothing happened once the going got tough.

I was delighted that my yet-t0-be-conceived granddaughters will know that a woman can be a Prime Minister.  And yes, I even sent Ms Gillard a birthday card on her 50th birthday, telling her that.

The invective that has been directed towards her by Sydney shock-jocks in particular is appalling, and the criticisms of her “legitimacy” and “authority” (even though Rudd had so little support in the 2010 “coup” that he did not even demand a vote) have an undercurrent that she wasn’t a “proper” Prime Minister.  I liked the quotation from Mary Crooks:

‘Every time someone makes an attack on her authority to lead (as distinct from her policies), they are sending a subliminal message to every woman and girl that they are not welcome to sit at the table of real political power.

As David Marr pointed out on Friday, this is the missing piece of the puzzle over the decision to oust Rudd from the leadership in 2010. It was part of the decency, yes decency, of his colleagues that they did not elaborate on the contribution of his personality to the whole situation then.

I laughed at the irony this morning of Rudd praising “Albo’s” decision to plump for him, channelling every cricket and football captain you’ve ever seen interviewed after a match.  But clearly Rudd is no team player, no matter how many “o”s  he attaches to his colleagues’ names.

We do not have a presidential system: we vote for a local member who is a party member, and it those party members who choose their leader.  Rudd seems to have forgotten his constitutional history.  I’m surprised and disappointed that John Faulkner seems to have done so as well.

And as for Michelle Grattan in The Age?   For the past few weeks, I’ve decided that she falls into the same category as Peter Costello or Chris Berg from the IPA. Her columns are no longer commentary, or analysis: you know what she’s going to write even before she types the first word.

I did not contact my local member Jenny Macklin.  Even if she were a Rudd supporter (which she is not), I would not do so.  Our democracy does not work that way and I think that it is all the better that it does not.  I shall exercise my constitution-given judgment at the ballot box.

‘Sea of Dreams: The Lure of Port Phillip Bay 1830-1914’ at Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery

Update 2013

I see that the Mornington Peninsular Gallery will be hosting a follow-up exhibition ‘Sea of Dreams: Port Phillip Bay 1915-2013’.  It will be on between 14 December and 2nd March 2014.  I must try very hard to attend before the closing week this time!

Review of 2012 exhibition

If, like my husband, your appreciation of the beach is best bolstered by being in an air-conditioned building, far from the sand and the water, then you too might like this exhibition at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery.  It’s on until 19 February 2012 so you still have time to get there (just!), have lunch at Mornington, and if you feel so inspired, even walk down to Mother’s Beach, as we did on a beautiful warm summer afternoon.


The exhibition has been divided into five themes which highlight different aspects of Port Phillip Bay.  I can hear my uncle Peter reproving me for the tautology, but Melburnians generally call it Port Phillip Bay and I’m not absolutely convinced that a port and a bay are the same thing. (Did you know that it was originally named Port King (after King George)  by Lieutenant Grant? It was renamed Port Phillip by Governor Phillip Gidley King to commemorate NSW’s first Governor, Arthur Phillip “my worthy and dear friend, the Admiral, who, until now has not had his name bestowed on either stick or stone in the colony” [King to Murray, 31 Oct. 1801 HRNSW, iv, p. 602]  Although I wonder if King was being a bit bashful, thinking that people would think it was named after him?).

I digress.  The exhibition is divided up into five themes, which are arranged in different sections of the gallery.  The gallery, which is not large, has a long ribbon of the names of different spots along bay displayed just about the skirting board, spooling  from room to room.  I think that Melbourne people tend to be rather parochial over ‘their’ beach, identifying more with the Mornington Peninsula side or (for me) the other side over at Queenscliff. Seeing the scroll of names brought home to me just how many there are.

The first theme, “Land of Promise” examines emigration- both the experience for the emigrants themselves and for the families they left behind.  As well as emigration literature painting for a British market, it had paintings of the landing at Queenscliff, and a painting that one would hope the “home” audience didn’t see: the wreck of the ‘Asa Packer’ c. 1861 at Point Nepean as it was passing through the heads.  Although not directly related to Port Phillip, there was also a depiction of the wreck of the Loch Ard– after all, who can resist that story?- although I think that it undermined the focus of the exhibition somewhat to include it.

The second theme “Unsettling the Land” examined early depictions of the Port Phillip settlement.  A printed notice on one of the pillars was the Gallery’s response to criticisms that there was no Aboriginal representation of what we know as Port Phillip.  It explained that approaches had been made to the local Aboriginal community to become involved with the exhibition, but no response was received.  It reveals an interesting twist on the politics of depiction of indigenous presence, and the expectation that it will be represented- and what is to be done if the local community chooses not to become involved.   It pointed to the Tommy McRae painting of a corroboree (1890) included in the exhibition, but admits that otherwise the depictions of Aboriginal people in the paintings were executed by white painters.  I found it interesting that George Gordon McCrae, the son of Scottish painter Georgiana McCrae, painted a corroboree at Arthur’s Seat on the Mornington Peninsula in 1844-9 that looked very similar to the indigenous Tommy McRae painting (no relation or contact, despite the similarity of their names).  I had seen quite a few of the early Port Phillip paintings in this section of the exhibition before, but there was one Robert Russell sketch in particular that reinforced how scrappy and primitive that first white settlement on the Yarra was.

“Defending our Shores”, the third theme, highlighted the strategic importance of the Heads and their fortification, but also the ceremonial aspects of military and government display with visiting royalty, and navy and military manoeuvres intended to reinforce sovereignty.

The fourth theme picked up on trade and commerce, especially in the wake of the gold rush.  “Riding the wave” depicts the presence of American ships after the repeal of the Navigation Acts from the mid 1850s, and highlights the activity and wealth generated  around the bay.  Several of these paintings were themselves commissioned as a way of advertising the prosperity of ship-owners and entrepreneurs.

The final theme, “Whiff of the Briny” was perhaps my favourite, with paintings that showed the pursuit of leisure around the bay.  Artwork from different eras is placed side by side, so that you can move from a very detailed, almost draftsmanlike rendering of clothes and ships from the mid 19th century to the adjacent painting that might be a bolder, brighter and more impressionistic piece by one of  the Australian Impressionists. Conder, in particular, painted several works down at Mentone and Rickett’s Point, but other Australian Impressionists are represented too.

So, as is often the case, here I am telling you about an exhibition that is in its closing stages- so if you want to catch it, you’d better go soon!