Friday, 6 March 2015

Martha Berkeley : The first dinner given to the Aborigines 1838 (Adelaide)

Martha Berkeley née Chauncy (1813 - 1899) was my third great grand aunt, the sister of Philip Chauncy (1816 - 1880), my great great great grandfather. Martha arrived in Adelaide South Australia in February 1837 on the John Renwick with her husband and her unmarried sister Theresa (1807 - 1876). They arrived just six weeks after the Proclamation of the Province on 28 December 1836.
Martha Berkeley self-portrait c. 1849. Art Gallery of South Australia.

Martha has been described by the Art Gallery of South Australia as Australia's second professional female painter (Mary Morton Allport who arrived in Hobart in 1831 being the first). Theresa was Australia's first female sculptor.

One of Martha Berkeley's most notable works is a watercolour painting of the  first dinner given to the Aborigines on 1 November 1838.

Advertising. (1838, October 27). South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register (Adelaide, SA : 1836 - 1839), p. 1. Retrieved March 6, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article31750198

Berkeley Martha, The first dinner given to the Aborigines 1838, Art Gallery of South Australia

[Martha Berkeley's] major work is a large watercolour, The First Dinner Given to the Aborigines (AGSA), depicting the three Adelaide tribes being entertained by Governor Gawler on 1 November 1838. The Aborigines sit awaiting the distribution of biscuits, meat, tea and blankets, while their three chiefs, dressed in new jackets provided by the settlers, stand together at the inner edge of the circle surrounding the Governor, the Protector of Aborigines and their wives. Behind the Aborigines is a standing ring of settlers, which includes obvious portraits. Berkeley added a pencil description of the event on the back of the painting in 1847, which confirms her aim of recording an important historical event for posterity. (Kerr, Joan. "Martha Maria Snell Berkeley." Design & Art Australia Online. Design & Art Australia Online, 15 Oct. 2014. Web. 6 Mar. 2015. <http://www.daao.org.au/bio/martha-maria-snell-berkeley/biography/>.)

Among works by Martha Berkeley held by the Art Gallery of South Australia is a fan that she painted probably in the 1840s.

Berkeley, Martha, watercolour on silk, ivory, Art Gallery of South Australia


I do not know if this was Martha's fan or if she painted it for somebody else. It might have been used at a levée such as that described in May 1840 celebrating the Queen's birthday. Martha and her husband, Captain Berkeley, are mentioned as attending. The 1840 levée was followed by a dinner and presentation to the Aborigines similar to the one painted by Martha in 1838.

THE QUEEN'S BIRTHDAY. (1840, May 30). South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), p. 6. Retrieved March 6, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27441466
Also mentioned in the article as being present at the 1840 levée were Miss Kemmis, who would later marry Martha's brother Philip, and Martha's sister, Theresa, now Mrs Walker, and her husband Captain Walker.


References
  • Art Gallery of South Australia & Radford, Ron, 1949- & Hylton, Jane, 1950- (1995). Australian colonial art : 1800-1900. Art Gallery Board of South Australia, Adelaide
  • Hylton, Jane & Berkeley, Martha, 1813-1899 & Walker, Theresa, 1807-1876 & Art Gallery of South Australia. Board & South Australia. Women's Suffrage Centenary Steering Committee (1994). Colonial sisters : Martha Berkeley & Theresa Walker, South Australia's first professional artists. Art Gallery Board of South Australia, Adelaide
  • THE QUEEN'S BIRTHDAY. (1840, May 30). South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), p. 6. Retrieved March 6, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27441466
  • Kerr, Joan. "Martha Maria Snell Berkeley." Design & Art Australia Online. Design & Art Australia Online, 15 Oct. 2014. Web. 6 Mar. 2015. <http://www.daao.org.au/bio/martha-maria-snell-berkeley/biography/>.