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The Plains, Bathurst

'The Plains, Bathurst, c.1815-1816.'

Watercolour drawing.
46.2 x 66.4 (inside frame lines)
46.7 x 66.7 (sheet)
"J. Whatman" watermark is visible on paper.

Bequeathed to the Mitchell Library, Sydney by D.S. Mitchell in 1907.
Used with permission.

'The Plains, Bathurst, ca. 1815-1816.'
Drawn by John Lewin, and described in Henry Colden Antill's, "Journal of an excursion over the Blue or Western Mountains of New South Wales to visit a tract of new discovered Country, 1815". Major H.C. Antill was Governor Macquarie Aide-de-Camp and his journal is held in the Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW. ML Safe 1/20a (Microfilm CY265).

Lewin accompanied the Macquaries across the Blue Mountains in 1815, and at the outset of the journey came to an arrangement with Major Antill:

"On our leaving Sydney this Gentleman [Lewin] and myself had made a promise to each other, that I was to give him a Copy of my remarks, and he in return was to let me have a copy of his sketches, and to him I am indebted for some beautiful views of the interesting country we were now passing through."

[Antill, H.C. Journal, Entry: 28 April 1815]

Lewin appears to have made at least twenty (20) watercolors of the journey for Antill - and fifteen (15) of these have survived in association with Antill's journal.

The entry by Antill for May 5th describes the scene at Bathurst in the following terms:

"The spot which was chosen for the Governor's large tent was upon a little rising ground about three hundred yards from the men's huts; a small tent was placed on each side with a clear space in front upon which a small flag staff was erected. This was a delightful spot for a town, commanding a view of the surrounding country to a considerable extent...."

The tent in the centre of Lewin's Bathurst Plains watercolour had been acquired by Macquarie from India, and was used extensively by him in his travels throughout the Colony. In 1813 he justified its purchase and use to Lord Bathurst in the following terms:

"The Charge of £551 10s. 7d. was incurred by my Authority for a Set of Bengal Tents, which I commissioned from that Country for my own Use and Accommodation during my Tours of Inspection into the several interior parts of this Colony, where there are no Houses to be met with. It is certainly essentially necessary towards my own Comfort, and that of the other Persons who attend me on these Excursions on Public Duty intended solely for the Benefit and Improvement of the Colony, that I should be provided with Tents on such Occasions.

'Macquarie to Bathurst,' 28 June 1813.
Historical Records of Australia.
Series 1: Vol. 7, pp.711-712.

LEWIN, John William (1770-1819)
Natural history artist and collector.
Arrived in Sydney on the Minerva on 11 January 1800 and settled at Parramatta with his wife Maria Anne, who was also an accomplished artist. In 1801 Lewin accompanied expeditions to Bass Strait and Hunter River, and in November, the same year, travelled to Tahiti in the Norfolk; he did not return to Sydney again until 19 December 1802.

He enjoyed the 'patronage' of the Macquaries who employed him as an artist for various vice-regal commissions and events at Government House. Lewin was appointed Coroner by Macquarie on 1 October 1810; and as an additional financial support he established teaching classes in Sydney in drawing and painting. Macquarie also provided him with 200 acres in the new district of Airds on 25 August 1812.

Died: August 1819, in Sydney.

Rienits, Rex and Rienits, Thea. Early Artists of Australia. Sydney Angus & Robertson, 1963 pp.124-145; Dictionary of Australian Artists, Painters, Sketchers, Photographers and Engravers to 1870. (ed.) Kerr, Joan. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1992 pp.465-467.

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