GREGORY, George Frederick (1821-1887) (artist); NOBLE, Timothy (photographer)
Scene of the Wreck “Loch Ard”. Photo’d for the Proprietors of the New Sensation Confectionery Depot, 30 Victoria Arcade, from an original Painting by Gregory, in their possession.
[Circa 1878]. Albumen print photograph of an artwork, carte de visite format, 63 x 101 mm, recto with imprint of ‘T. Noble & Co. Photo. 81 Bourke St. East’; verso with Noble’s elaborate studio back mark covered by the publisher’s printed label worded: ‘Scene of the Wreck “Loch Ard”. Photo’d for the Proprietors of the New Sensation Confectionery Depot, 30 Victoria Arcade, from an original Painting by Gregory, in their possession’; the albumen print and edges of the mount with very light foxing, otherwise fine condition.
A rare and desirable piece of Loch Ard ephemera.
We can trace no other example of this carte de visite by Timothy Noble, published by the New Sensation Confectionery Depot of Melbourne. The painting which it depicts – which it seems reasonable to attribute to marine artist George Frederick Gregory (see below) – was only one of numerous depictions of the shipwreck painted by contemporary artists. However, we have not been able to uncover any details of the painting’s history: was it lost or destroyed at some point or has it survived? It is not among the extant works by Gregory held in Australian public collections.
The wreck of the Loch Ard was one of the most infamous events in Australia’s maritime history, and the story quickly entered Australian folklore. On 1 June 1878, the Loch Ard, en route from England to Melbourne, was wrecked on rocks in a storm off Victoria’s southwest coast. Of the 17 crew and 37 passengers, there were only two survivors: young Thomas Pearce and Eva Carmichael. (In the lower right foreground of the painting photographed on this carte de visite the artist has depicted Tom carrying Eva to safety). Pearce was awarded a medal and a financial reward for saving Eva from the heavy surf after she had clung to one of ship’s spars for several hours. The most precious object in the ship’s cargo – a magnificent porcelain peacock by Minton, which was intended for display in the Melbourne International Exhibition – was miraculously salvaged from the wreck intact.
From the ANMM website:
‘George Frederick Gregory (1821 – 1887) was born in the south England and worked as a draughtsman before joining the Royal Navy as a ship’s carpenter. He was posted on a brig off East Africa apprehending illegal slave trade ships and served on HMS VICTORY and HMS NELSON. One of the subjects of his early paintings was the East India Company paddle-steamer NEMESIS, on which he voyaged to China in 1839-40.
Gregory then joined HMS CALLIOPE on a voyage to Australia at the height of the Gold rush period and he jumped ship in Hobson’s Bay – the setting for several later paintings. By 1854 Gregory had established himself as a marine painter. He received commissions from sailors and new immigrants who wanted a record of the vessel in which they had sailed out to the Australian colonies.
Gregory married and had two sons, George Frederick (junior) and William. He remarried after his first wife died in the 1860s and had a third son, Arthur Victor. Both George Frederick and Arthur Victor were to become prominent maritime artists in their own right.
The boys assisted their father in stretching papers, preparing colours and washing skies. George Frederick junior, who moved to Adelaide in 1890, used a similar signature to his father, as well as a similar style, which has resulted in some confusion in attributions.
Gregory painted almost exclusively in watercolours and highlights of gouache. He used washes over pencil outlines with a confident brush, though with such as style and medium many of his works have faded. Most of his work consisted of sailing ship profiles, though he did paint some naval battles, shipwrecks, steam ships, fleets and other compositions.
His work was highly accurate in detail and as an experienced sailor and draughtsman, quite technical. He often placed recognisable geographic features in his paintings and they varied greatly in size. His output was vast and several of his major works were exhibited.
Gregory lived in Melbourne bayside suburbs from 1872 until his death in 1887 and painted almost exclusively in Melbourne, Victoria.’