England/Australia Painter , 1801-1878
Australian painter, lithographer and librarian of English birth. Son of a London merchant, he studied c. 1816 under Copley Fielding. His training was as a watercolourist and his most important works are watercolours, although he also produced paintings in oils. His early work displays the taste then current for the Picturesque. Francis Danby, David Cox and Turner were artists he admired. Martens left for India in 1832 or 1833 but at Montevideo joined Charles Darwin's expedition, replacing Augustus Earle as topographical draughtsman aboard the Beagle. The work strengthened his observation of detail and skill as a draughtsman. He left the expedition in October 1834 and, travelling via Tahiti and New Zealand, arrived in Sydney in April 1835. There he worked as a professional artist, in the 1840s and 1850s producing lithographic views of the Sydney area to augment his income. In 1863 he was appointed Parliamentary Librarian, which secured his finances. The skills he had acquired aboard the Beagle helped to gain him commissions to depict the estates around Sydney. However, his admiration for Turner, and with this the desire to elevate landscape as a subject, prompted him to subordinate line to mood in a Romantic treatment of the landscape. His thoughts were clearly stated in a lecture on landscape painting given in 1856 at the Australian Library, Sydney (see Smith, 1975).
Sydney Harbour Looking Towards the North End
Watercolour 44.5 x 63.5cm (17 1/2 x 25in)
Private collection (mk63)