Stories from the Royal Society of Tasmania Art Collection
11. John Skinner Prout’s Tasmania Illustrated, Vol 1 – Part 2
Article prepared by the RST Honorary Curator, Dr Anita Hansen, for the December 2022 RST Newsletter
This month’s article is the second piece about John Skinner Prout’s Tasmania Illustrated, Vol 1. (the remaining lithographs).
John Skinner Prout (1805–1876)
Last month I looked at five lithographs and covers from John Skinner Prout’s Tasmania Illustrated, Vol 1, featuring Hobart and surrounds. I will continue to explore his lithographs in this month’s article.
This month we venture further afield, looking at some of the rugged coastline around the south of the island, before heading back to Hobart.
As can be seen from this map from about the same time as Prout drew these pictures, there were very few roads in the area. One might assume then that the sailing ships in the lithographs were his transport to the area, and the row boat was used to get closer to the rugged cliffs so he could sketch them. Quite an adventure.
Prout continued his sketching of Hobart and the surrounding area for Tasmania Illustrated, and a further six were included in the publication.
On 19 June 1884 an article in The Colonial Times about the project had Prout up in arms.
The article noted:
Lithography. – Some of the best specimens of lithography we have ever seen are in the course of publication by the admirable artist, Mr. Prout, being street views of this city from drawings by Mr. Chapman, whose talents are well known. There are to be two volumes, the first of which contain three highly finished lithographies – Macquarie-street, and the Female Factory, the Wharfs, and the village of New Town, with all the neighbouring splendid scenery. For a present to be transmitted to England, nothing can be preferable, and we have no doubt a liberal public will attend to these first-rate artists their usual generous protection.
The Letter to the Editor
Prout must have been fuming! Later in June, he wrote an angry letter to The Colonial Times about their naming Thomas Chapman as the artist of his work. He wrote:
Sir, In an article in your last week’s publication headed “Lithography,” and referring my work illustrative of Hobart Town, I perceive that, by some unaccountable mistake, you have stated that the drawings were made by Mr. Chapman. Each of the drawings bears my signature, and in other respects affords evidence of being my own production, it would seem unnecessary for me to request the favour of your correcting this error; this I should not have done, had you not, in your remarks stated the drawings to be “street views of this city,” connecting with MY drawings, a recently issued print, sent authorless into the world, and said to be a view of St Joseph’s Church and Macquarie-street.
One can imagine his horror on opening the paper and finding his work being attributed to someone else, someone who would have been his rival at that time.
Prout goes on to write:
I am anxious to have this mistake corrected, as the series of street scenes in Hobart Town, which I have made arrangements to bring out, will form quite a distinct work to that which I am now publishing, and which are principally general views of the town and neighbourhood…
Sadly, there seems not to have been an apology from the paper. I could find no mention of it in the following couple of months.
The second volume of Tasmania Illustrated appeared in 1846 and this included images from Prout’s tour of northern Tasmania. These will be in the next newsletter.