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Unknown artist, St. Leonard’s: The Property of E.P. Barrett Lennard Esquire, Swan River, Western Australia

St. Leonard's: The property of E.P. Barrett Lennard Esquire, Swan River, Western Australia c 1840s. Watercolour and ink, 46.0 x 41.0 cm (irregular, rounded top corners). State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia. Purchased with funds from the Sir Claude Hotchin Art Foundation - Art Gallery of Western Australia Foundation, 2010.


This watercolour depicts ‘St. Leonard’s’, the homestead and centre of its owner Edward Pomeroy Barrett Lennard’s farming ventures. Barrett Lennard had arrived in Perth from England in June 1829 and within six months was residing on land he had purchased and named St. Leonard’s in the upper reaches of the Swan River. He was to become a leading figure in the Guilford area and his family significant in the development of the Swan River colony and Western Australia.

St. Leonard’s is a fine example of the way naïve pictorial means were employed to map the lived experience of early settlers. It captures the reality of early artistic voices in this region, many of whom were amateur but in possession of cultural and artistic understanding. Its interest also lies in its combined illustration of European settlement, early land use and Indigenous inhabitation of this place.

Although Barrett Lennard lived the end of his life in relatively impoverished circumstances, his accomplishments during his lifetime were extensive. The image, therefore, is one of personal achievement, showing how Barrett Lennard imposed an English order, and a sense of hope and progress, on the Australian landscape. The artist also accounts for the differences with England by including a figure of an Indigenous Australian in the foreground. The fence between the two clearly characterises the separation of these two cultures at this time. St. Leonard’s is a strong example of Western Australian colonial art that adds further depth to the State Art Collection’s unrivalled holdings of this material, contributing to our understanding of the material conditions of a developing landscape and the development of the visual arts in the colony.

The artist of this work is currently unknown. There are several clues as to its author however. A monogram of what appears to be a fox with its two front paws resting on a ball appears in the lower left corner of the watercolour. Within the ball is the inscription, ‘‘[illeg.] W’. The cluster of homesteads in the centre of this work closely relates to a pencil sketch by Elizabeth Irwin, wife of the first Military Commandant of Western Australia, held by the J.S. Battye Library (State Library of Western Australia). Another sketch catalogued in the same folio of sketches by Irwin also directly relates to a watercolour attributed to William Brockman held in the State Art Collection. Brockman was friend to both Barrett Lennard and Irwin’s husband. In light of these relationships and the presence of the monogram, we hope continuing research will determine an attribution.

St. Leonard's: The property of E.P. Barrett Lennard Esquire, Swan River, Western Australia
c 1840s (detail)  

If you believe you can assist us with information pertaining to this watercolour, please contact Lucy Harper, Associate Curator of Historical Works on Paper


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