John Glover (1787 – 1849)

Regarded as the father of Australian landscapes, the skilful and prolific painter, John Glover is perhaps the most important Australian landscape painter of the early colonial period. His classical artistic style brought him immense success and led the artist to live two separate artistic lives in Europe and then in Australia.

Born in Leicestershire, England in 1767 Glover started out as a writing master before discovering a talent for copying the paintings of the great masters. Demonstrating an adventurous soul from a young age and undeterred by the fact that he was a large, heavy man with two clubbed feet, Glover was a keen tourist, travelling to Greece and Italy as well as parts of his own country such as, North Wales, Scotland and the Lakes District, areas which at the time, were regarded as the wilder parts of Britain. Working as a picturesque artist, he used this time to study and sketch the varying landscapes of the areas he witnessed first hand, allowing him to be labelled as a patron saint of the ‘grey nomads.’

Creating works of art that were inspired by his travels, Glover developed a reputation of being the famed painter of romantic landscapes of Britain and Southern Europe. As his audiences began to make comparisons between his work and that of French seventeenth century artist, Claude Lorrain, he also became known by his English and French contemporaries as “The English Claude.”

With his name well-established, Glover moved to London and was soon staging his own solo shows. Moving audiences with his artistic ability his landscapes and drawings received critical acclaim and great demand, leaving Glover as the artist second only to Turner in financial achievement. As his reputation extended to France he attracted the attention of the French King, Louis XVIII, who purchased many of his works and awarded Glover a gold medal for his painting, The Bay of Naples in 1814. This painting has been described to have captured sheer originality of composition, representing the true extent of the country being depicted.

Glover established a gallery in Bond Street, London in 1820 in which he held exhibitions of his own works and found equal success financially as a dealer, painter and teacher. Throughout the 1820s the artist continued to produce numerous works to great acclaim. His reputation soon began to suffer, however, when his artist contemporaries, Turner and Constable used their romantic sublime and naturalist styles to pave the way for impressionism and modernism. While Glover remained a Classicist, these new celebrated styles of painting led to audiences abandoning their appreciation for Classic art and Glover with a yearning for greater inspiration.

On his 64th birthday in 1831, John Glover arrived in Van Diemen’s Land, now named Tasmania, being the only major artist to migrate to Australia before the gold rushes of the 1850s. Why the artist chose to migrate to the uncharted territory of Australia remains uncertain. It has been argued, however, that some of the reasons included the fact that his sons had emigrated the previous year, he qualified for a generous land grant, and most importantly, that he was drawn to the land’s alien qualities as he was keen to discover new landscapes.

After a brief period in Hobart, he settled in the north-east of the island at Mills Plain where he was granted 2,560 acres by the government. Purchasing another 5,098 acres he built a large house which he named, ‘Patterdale’. It was at this place that Glover farmed and painted, commissioned works for the landowners of the Colony, and landscapes to be sold in London.

Here in the colony Glover’s style adopted a distinct naïve and rustic touch as he responded to the unique landscapes and effectively captured the colour, light, contours and reality of the Australian bush. One of the earliest oils Glover painted in Tasmania, Hobart Town, taken from the Garden Where I Lived (1832), reflects the positive aspects of colonization in the harsh and unfamiliar environment.

Glover soon became known in Australia as the man who initiated the shift from the darker, more comfortable styles of European painting to the new bright and clear styles, giving a fresh treatment to the effects of the Australian sunlight on the native bushland and fauna. It was for his this significant contribution to Australian art that the Glover Prize was established, an annual competition that aims to reward innovation and outward perspective in Tasmanian landscape painting.

Glover completed his last major work on his 79th birthday before dying in 1849. Today his work is displayed in many of Australia’s prominent galleries and others worldwide.

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