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Artist Samuel Thomas Gill

Samuel Thomas Gill arrived in colonial Adelaide, Australia, in 1839 at the age of 21 and quickly started painting and drawing. Within a few months of his arrival he announced in the South Australian Register, 7 March 1840, his availability as an artist and his willingness to tackle any subject on commission. His advertisement reads:

S.T.Gill, Artist, &c., late Draftsman and Water Colour Painter to the Hubard Profile Gallery, London, begs to announce to his friends and the public generally of Adelaide and its vicinity, that he has opened rooms in Gawler Place where for the present he solicits the attendance of such individuals as are desirous of obtaining correct likenesses of themselves, families or friends. Parties preferring attendance at their residences may be accommodated without additional charge. Correct resemblances of horses, dogs, etc., with local scenery etc., executed to order. Residences sketched and transferred to paper suited for home conveyance. Orders executed in rotation. Open daily from eleven to dusk.

He became one of the most prolific artists of the nineteenth century leaving behind over 2,700 pieces of artwork of people, places and events in the colonies of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. His work included many watercolours full of life and activity, containing an incredible amount of detail.

He signed his work 'STG'. I am sure many of you will be familiar with his artwork depicting the Victorian gold rush. While his goldfields work was substantial he left behind many scenes of other colonial life.

STG is the subject of my latest book. A number of books have been written about Gill. The majority have been written by art historians and art critics. I have of course examined these works as part of my research. However my interest in STG is from the view point of an historian. I have used his artwork in some of my previous books to illustrate the story that I have tried to convey. I have found that an image conveys so much to the reader and is often remembered when the words have been forgotten. Hence my book is about Gill's contribution to our understanding of colonial Australia. I am interested in him as a pictorial historian.

I have a complete manuscript but it of course needs editing and I have more research that I intend to do before completing the writing. I am in the process of collecting a range of his work as illustrations of his contribution to our history. A couple of examples are below.

This is a record Gill made of the departure of Charles Sturt from Adelaide on his last expedition to see if there really was a great inland lake. STG made a number of sketches and paintings of the departure and some watercolours of the expedition based on sketches made by Sturt.

This artwork shows the town of Kooringa. The town grew up around the Burra Burra mines in South Australia. The discovery of copper in 1842 enabled the ailing economy of South Australia to boom and it attracted a wave of immigrant miners from Cornwall. South Australia became a major exporter of copper.

In my next blog I will include some of Gill's work on the Victorian goldfield.


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