Samuel Elyard exhibition at Jervis Bay Maritime Museum

A series of late 1800s watercolours reveal a different Shoalhaven coastline from the one we know today.

Painted during the 1870s by famed painter Samuel Elyard, they depict coastal views of Crookhaven, Cape St George, Jervis Bay and Wreck Bay.

The works currently on show at the Jervis Bay Maritime Museum are rarely seen by the public.

 Max Dingle, a prominent Shoalhaven artist who curated the exhibition said it could be a long time before people get the chance to see these works again.

“Sunlight fades the colours and damages the paintings, so their display to the public unfortunately has to be limited,” Mr Dingle said.

“After this exhibition, they are unlikely to be on display again for several years.”

The works are currently on display at the Jervis Bay Maritime Museum in Huskisson.

Elyard, considered the most famous painter to have lived and worked in the Shoalhaven region, was a prolific artist who completed around 1000 watercolours, sketches and paintings during his lifetime, many of which are are now held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Shoalhaven Regional Gallery and Nowra Museum.

Samuel Elyard

Samuel Elyard

Ellard’s works are a pictorial record of the district in the second half of the 19th century.

He painted areas in and around Nowra and the Shoalhaven River, and recorded famous events like the 1870s Great Flood and the building of the first bridge over the Shoalhaven River.

Those works now on show at the Jervis Bay Maritime Museum come from the Museum's own Halloran collection.

‘Samuel Elyard – The Coastal Paintings’ is at the Jervis Bay Maritime Museum until Thursday August 30.

They were painted during trips the artist made to the Crookhaven, Jervis Bay and Wreck Bay areas during the 1870s.

A favourite subject of Elyard's was the ill-fated Cape St George Lighthouse, which operated on the southern side of Jervis Bay from 1864 to 1899.

Errors in the placement and operation of the doomed lighthouse led to 23 shipwrecks along the coast over this period.

“Elyard was one of the first Australian artists to accurately capture the light and colours of the Australian landscape,” Mr Dingle said.

“Elyard painted out in the open and away from the studio, years before this ‘plein-air’ painting became a common practice amongst Australian artists.”

Elyard, born in 1817 in England, accompanied his family to Sydney in 1821 as a boy of four-years-of-age.

As a young man, he took drawing lessons at school and studied under famed landscape painter Conrad Martens.

He worked in Sydney as a clerk in the Colonial Secretary's Office but developed mental health problems and moved to Nowra around 1869, where he painted consistently until his death in 1910, aged 93.

A special curator’s guided tour of the exhibition with Mr Dingle will take place at 11am Saturday August 11 and costs $5 non-members, free for members. Please RSVP by calling 4441 5675.