4a: 1835: a side-post on Conrad Martens

Posted originally on January 13, 2015 by Neil.

This series of posts is the most comprehensive I have done on family history. I am doing them backwards here so that in due course they will appear sequentially.

The London-born artist Conrad Martens arrived in Sydney in 1835. Wollongong historian Michael Organ (pdf):

Martens was with the Beagle for nearly a year (December 1833 – November 1834) working under Fitzroy and alongside the soon to be famous naturalist Charles Darwin. This was to be an important period for Martens as the close contact with such brilliant scientists as Darwin and Fitzroy was to profoundly affect the manner in which he was to view nature and express that vision within his art.

During the artist’s period aboard the Beagle the vessel was involved in a survey of the southern most coast of South America. This took him to places such as Port Desire (December 1833); the Straits of Magellan (January 1834); Port Famine, Mount Sarmiento, Cape Horn, and the Beagle Channel (all during February 1834); the Falkland Islands (March); up the Santa Cruz River (April – May); the Cape Virgin Islands (May); Chiloe (June); and Valpariso at the end of June, 1834. From June to November 1834 the Beagle was stationed at Valpariso, during which period Martens and the scientists made numerous excursions into the local countryside.

When time came for the expedition to move on in November 1834 Martens was signed-off by Captain Fitzroy, mainly due to lack of funds and shortage of storage space upon the Beagle in which to house him….

After leaving the Beagle in November 1834 Martens decided on travelling to New South Wales, possibly with the intention of settling there. He left Valpariso on 3 December 1834 aboard the Peruvian bound for Tahiti, where he arrived on 22 January 1835.

The route he took to New South Wales would basically follow that taken by the Beagle nine months later, and in many ways he was still acting as their unofficial artist.

Martens spent approximately seven weeks at Tahiti sketching and painting, before boarding the Black Warrior bound for Australia via New Zealand. He left Tahiti on 4 March 1835 and arrived at the Bay of Islands a month later, on 4 April. After spending six days at the Bay of Islands the Black Warrior weighed anchor on 9 April and set off on the final leg for New South Wales. She eventually arrived at Port Jackson on 17 April 1835, with Martens recording her passage through the Heads in a pencil sketch. Upon this work he also noted the prevailing weather conditions, revealing the influence of Captain Fitzroy who was an expert in the developing science of meteorology.

Throughout his time in Australia Conrad Martens would continue to experiment with sky and atmospheric features such as clouds, sunrise, moonlight, and storms; incorporating these aspects within his paintings with the skill of an experienced meteorologist and viewer of nature…


Fort Macquarie (site of Sydney Opera House now) from the north shore, 1836


Para Creek, Near Wollongong, Illawara District, New South Wales


Sydney Heads 1854

“The appearance when off the heads of Port Jackson is that of a wild and iron bound coast and the entrance that of a gigantic gateway, but the scene changes immediately upon entering the calm and beautiful islands, bays and headlands … the town of Sydney is seen tho’ still at a distance … and still further the faint outline of the blue mountains in the interior.” – Martens, 17 April 1835

Top poems 4: John Donne “Nativity”


16th century Woodcut by Titian in the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki collection

(No known copyright restrictions)

Seventeenth century near-contemporary of Shakespeare John Donne has managed to compact just about every bit of traditional doctrine on the Nativity into one sonnet!

Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb,
Now leaves His well-belov’d imprisonment,
There He hath made Himself to His intent
Weak enough, now into the world to come;
But O, for thee, for Him, hath the inn no room?
Yet lay Him in this stall, and from the Orient,
Stars and wise men will travel to prevent
The effect of Herod’s jealous general doom.
Seest thou, my soul, with thy faith’s eyes, how He
Which fills all place, yet none holds Him, doth lie?
Was not His pity towards thee wondrous high,
That would have need to be pitied by thee?
Kiss Him, and with Him into Egypt go,
With His kind mother, who partakes thy woe.


A bit of a triumph, but not the best poem Donne ever wrote. The scene is indeed one for “faith’s eyes” rather than the stricter gaze of the historian, but who would complain too much?

Top poems 3: Robert Southwell “The Burning Babe”

It has been a while between poems here! With Christmas coming up, I thought I would post a few Christmas poems. This is perhaps the most bizarre, though I recall when first reading it at the age of sixteen being quite drawn by its odd imagery. I am no longer so sure of the theology it encapsulates, but that is another matter.


Piero della Francesca, Nativity (c. 1470), National Gallery, London



By Robert Southwell

As I in hoary Winter’s night stood shiveringe in the snowe,
Surpris’d I was with sodayne heat, which made my hart to glowe;
And liftinge upp a fearefull eye to
vewe what fire was nere,
A prety Babe all burninge bright, did in the ayre appeare.
Who scorchèd with excessive heate, such floodes of teares did shedd,
As though His floodes should quench His flames which with His teares were fedd;
Alas! quoth He, but newly borne, in fiery heates I frye,
Yet none approch to warme their hartes or feele my fire but I!
My faultles brest the fornace is, the fuell woundinge thornes,
Love is the fire, and sighes the smoke, the ashes shame and scornes;
The fuell Justice layeth on, and Mercy blowes the coales,
The metall in this fornace wrought are men’s defilèd soules,
For which, as nowe on fire I am, to worke them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath to washe them in My bloode:
With this He vanisht out of sight, and swiftly shroncke awaye,
And straight I callèd unto mynde that it was Christmas-daye.


Southwell was a Catholic martyr. According to WikiSource, from which I took the original spelling edition above: “The Burning Babe was taken from a collection called St. Peter’s Complaint, printed privately and circulated shortly after the poet’s execution in 1595. Ben Jonson said that he would have been content to destroy many of his own poems to have written The Burning Babe.” The title link takes you to a modernised version.

For a Jerome Rothenberg book of the same name see illustrated Burning Babe.

My best original photo so far?

It’s a subjective thing. At the moment I am really taken with this one from the “summer light” series on my new photoblog.

dec03 022

Some would possibly opt for an older one:

 mon27 011

What do you think?

By the way, speaking of the new photoblog: that’s where you go now to see what you might call my casual visions emerging. Here the sets will be less for the pics own sake, but will usually serve a theme – a bit like the recent sets here. I’ll also do a few in the “top poems” series too, in the near future. There are only two this far, but they do get a lot of visitors.