One of the best things about the recent refurbishment of the Brisbane City Hall is the new accommodation for the Museum of Brisbane. The museum is up on the roof of the building, hidden neatly behind the parapet, with views of the central dome.
There is a new exhibition about the Brisbane River, which includes this painting by Cedric Flower. The painting was the headline work in a commercial exhibition in 1965—Select views and scenes of Brisbane life: 1830-1900 by Cedric Flower—shown at the Johnstone Gallery. The picture catches the character of the haphazard little settlement in a landscape dominated by the river. The exhibition catalogue notes that it was painted after a drawing by an unknown artist in the possession of the Mitchell Library.
That unknown artist is believed to be Henry Boucher Bowerman (1789–1840), a civil servant who worked in the Commissariat at Moreton Bay in the early 1830s and who had studied topographic sketching at the British Military Academy at Woolwich. A few of his Brisbane Town drawings have found their way into public collections in Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra.
Flower’s painting (450 × 900 mm) is larger than the Bowerman drawing (150 × 300 mm) and has added colour and various small details. Flower has added a group of Aboriginal people to his picture—these people, a column of smoke floating up from the brick kiln, and a white person with a fishing rod, all enliven the picture.
One detail of special interest to me is the sawpit near the river bank below the windmill. Flower has nicely copied the hipped roof over the pit, the three sawyers, the logs awaiting sawing, and the sawn boards stacked for seasoning.
But Cedric Flower has drawn all three sawyers standing on the wrong side of their saws. I guess if he had ever tried pit sawing, he wouldn’t have sentenced these convicts to such cruel and unusual treatment.