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S. T. Gill (STG) ~ 2. Hindley Street, Adelaide, 1845

 

Episodes: 1. The Controversy | 2. Why is the Sun Shining from the South? (Hindley Street) | 3. Alibis and Mystery | 4. Sunshine and Dating (Rundle Street) | 5. 10 August 1844 | 6. Are They Still Following Me? | 7. Gill’s Newfoundland Dog | 8. A Mystery of Provenance | 9. Man Dead! News Murdered!! | 10. More to Reveal … 

 

 

 

Why is the Sun Shining from the South? Can we Date the Scene?

 

Still pondering the STG Free Settler vs. Convict Controversy, I was checking out STG’s earliest paintings and noticed dateable clues – the signs on buildings. (This is the sort of thing one also does for old photographs.) I wondered what Trove Digitised Newspapers might reveal.

 

I tackled the painting that had the most clues: Hindley Street, Adelaide, looking west from King William Street (1845). This watercolour is included in the exhibition Australian Sketchbook: Colonial Life and the Art of S.T. Gill, at the National Library of Australia (NLA), Canberra, 29 June - 16 October 2016. It is also viewable online via the Art Gallery of South Australia (unfortunately however at insufficient resolution for study).

 

I’ve included links to references, including the painting, newspapers and this page, in a Trove list: coombe.id.au - S. T. Gill (STG) ~ 2. Hindley Street. There you will also find a link to SLSA’s high resolution image of a later version of this painting.

 

Could I use some of the clues to date the scene? And another question – if this is looking west, why is the sun shining from the south? The shadows fall from left to right, just as they do in another painting facing the opposite direction: Hindley Street, Adelaide, looking east (1845). STG can’t have it both ways!

 

The sign clues in this street painting, are,

on the left side leading away from the viewer:

Register Printing Office,

Observer Office;

and on the right side:

Auction Mart,

Payne’s Auction Mart Tavern,

Lowe,

Waterloo House (C. S. Platts).

 

It is worth orienting ourselves with the streets and the artist’s perspective. This is minute detail from G. S. Kingston’s 1842 map of Adelaide’s streets and buildings. You can view the full map in my references list. Here we are at an intersection. Running north-south is King William Street; to the west of this intersection is Hindley Street and to the east is Rundle Street. The artist’s perspective is from this intersection, although one can tell he wasn’t in the very middle! The longer narrow building to the top left of this detail is “Waterloo House”. Other buildings are less identifiable.

 

Starting with the right hand side, the name C. S. Platts appears on the front of Waterloo House. Platts’s Library was a well-known bookshop, stationer and library. Platts’ occupation of Waterloo House began in May 1843, but after a steep rent increase, he decided to vacate in April 1844. The site was taken, arguably in indecent haste, by John Stephens who opened an identical business on 1 May 1844. He seemed comfortable with allowing customers a little confusion that it was a continuation of the same business, and consequently the two men engaged in a dispute via the press until about mid-May. So a late date for this scene depends on how quickly Stephens replaced the Platts name on the building front.

 

Stephens also ran the Adelaide Observer (commenced 1 July 1843) and integrated both his news and shop businesses. “All goods confided to Mr Stephens for sale will be advertised free of charge to the owners.” And at the time he opened his new shop, he also advertised the simultaneous moving of the Observer Office to Waterloo House from 1 May. The newspaper’s back page caught up with the change of office location from Morphett Street on 11 May.

 

Because the painting has both C. S. Platts and the Observer Office in their old locations, this suggests the scene is no later than these May 1844 moves, but after Platts original move to Waterloo House in May 1843.

 

In the painting near Waterloo House is Lowe, Chemist. Ads appear in 1844 and 1845 offering “cash for castor oil seeds.” This dating is consistent with what else we know about this painting, without adding anything new.

 

Then there is Payne’s Auction Mart Tavern, which was licensed to Samuel Payne during 1844-45. Again no extra dating refinement here. Incidentally, in May 1845 he “exhibited to us a singular freak of Dame Nature. It is no less than two calves' heads joined together to one neck, with eyes and every part complete.” (It was stuffed.)

 

But we hit a snag in the painting when it comes to the Auction Mart. Because despite the above research giving an early 1844 date for the scene, the “new” Auction Mart was not yet there then!

 

On 11 May 1844, the Adelaide Observer noted “The progress of improvement in the City fully keeps pace... scarcely a week elapsing in which we have not the pleasure to notice some projected building or pleasing alteration... Hindley-street is destined to be embellished by the intended erections... Among others, the Auction Mart of Mr Bentham Neales is to acquire a new and highly ornamental frontage, immediately after that gentleman's return from Sydney; where, we are told, many specimens of appropriate architectural adaptation are to be seen in various commercial structures.” Neales returned from Sydney on 16 May.

 

So in May 1844, a grand new frontage was expected for the Auction Mart, but had yet to be built.

 

The streetscape development continued. The South Australian reported on the “new shops” on 29 November: “Hindley-street is daily assuming a brighter aspect, in consequence of the use of a fine white freestone, which has been found at Mount Lofty, in forming stone fronts. This stone is almost pure white, is soft and easily worked, and becomes hard from exposure to the air. Mr J. B. Neales has made of this stone the fronts of two very handsome shops at his Auction Mart.” It further reported on 27 December 1844 that the new fronts were nearly completed.

 

It’s likely the scene was painted after the substantial completion of the new white stone Auction Mart front, perhaps early 1845, but given the dating of the other subjects, it seems the scene was first captured before then.

 

Crossing to the other side of the road in the painting, the Register Printing Office advertised stationery for sale from 1 May 1844 to April 1845. (The Register General Printing Office was elsewhere on the corner of King William Street and Rundle Street.) Noting a shift in nomenclature around 1844, I tested this observation using @wragge Tim Sherratt’s QueryPic.

 

 

This suggests the scene that includes “Register Printing Office” is more likely 1844 and not later than May 1845.

 

Redating Hindley Street, 1843-44 and Sunshine

 

With one exception – the white stone front for the Auction Mart – the scene can be dated between July 1843 (when the Observer was founded) and April or May 1844 (the end of Platts’ occupation of Waterloo House). Although “C. S. Platts” may have remained a ghost sign beyond April, Stephens was a sufficiently astute businessman not to misdirect customers to an old Observer Office! And the Register Printing Office commencing advertisements from 1 May 1844, further suggests this scene is likely to be early May 1844.

 

It is thought that this watercolour was executed in the second half of 1845, as part of a commission by James Allen. I see no reason to doubt this. But the scene would likely have been captured in an initial sketch and notes – about early May 1844 – more than a year before the painting itself. So when this particular watercolour was executed in 1845, the Auction Mart improvement was included for the sake of modernity and perhaps the impression sought by James Allen. STG made a preliminary sketch of the Auction Mart, in which the artist is facing north and the sun is shining from the east.

 

It is clear too that James Allen, in early May 1844, had a particular interest in the condition of Hindley and Rundle Streets, being instrumental in their improvement at public meetings held at Payne’s Auction Mart Tavern from 30 April 1844.

 

And why is the sun shining from the south? It looks like artistic licence – the artist’s view is illuminated – not shaded. If the sun was shining from the north, the far side of the street – the side of visual interest – would be in shadow. It isn’t the only Adelaide street-scene for which STG has reversed the shadows!

 

The early date for this scene is incompatible with Smith’s “convict Gill” theory.

 

David Coombe, 20 July 2016 

 

 

  3. Alibis and Mystery

 

 

CITE THIS: David Coombe, 2016, S. T. Gill (STG) ~ 2. Hindley Street, Adelaide, 1845, accessed dd mmm yyyy, <http://coombe.id.au/stg/02_Hindley_Street_Adelaide_1845.htm>

 

or CITE THIS: David Coombe, 2016, S. T. Gill (STG), accessed dd mmm yyyy, <http://coombe.id.au/stg>

   

20/7/2016 (original), 10/11/2016 (updated)