Professor Michael Rosenthal on Edward Charles Close

Sophia Campbell's 1821 Panorama

Panorama of Newcastle 1821
formerly attributed to Sophia Campbell, currently acknowledged as the work of Edward Charles Close.
Click on image for a larger view. (Courtesy of the State Library of NSW)

The School of Humanities and Social Science is proud to present the first of its 2012 History Seminar series in Cultural Collections Auchmuty Library.

Professor Michael Rosenthal from the History of Art Department at Warwick University will deliver a presentation on the work of Morpeth founder and recently acknowledged Colonial artist, Edward Charles Close, and the wider technical problems in dealing with Australian colonial art. Professor Rosenthal has a long standing interest in the Macquarie era and this lecture will be of interest to researchers interested in history, colonial art and its creators.

History seminars convenor Dr Camilla Russell with Professor Rosenthal


In 2009 Dr David Hansen discovered that the watercolours attributed to amateur colonial artist, Sophia Campbell were the work of Lieutenant Edward Close, of the 48th Regiment, which arrived in Sydney on August 3rd, 1817.

This paper builds on Dr Hansen’s foundation, to discuss some of the technical problems surrounding even knowing what we’re looking at in the field of colonial Australian art, and works are discussed according to their genre – caricatures, views, landscapes – and the latter are investigated with a view to decoding what messages their aesthetic references tell us about how Close was viewing New South Wales, Sydney and Newcastle.

These in turn are linked into other issues – the ethos of the Macquarie era, the impact of European occupation upon the Aborigines and their places – to argue that art can be as eloquent as any written documentation about the actualities of historical process.

Chair of the CRWP Gionni Di Gravio with Professor Rosenthal looking over paintings and plans of early Newcastle.


Professor Rosenthal in discussion with CRWP members Ann Hardy, Russell Rigby and Gionni Di Gravio


Michael Rosenthal BA, PhD (London), MA (Cantab) studied at the Courtauld Institute, and was Leverhulme Research Fellow at Jesus College, Cambridge, before arriving at Warwick, where he has remained for 35 years. He has held various fellowships in Australia and the US, and was lead curator of the Gainsborough exhibition at Tate Britain in 2002. His research has concentrated on the arts within British social and cultural histories, mainly of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and he has had an abiding concern with landscape. Most recently he worked on colonial art in Australia 1788-1840; about which he is writing a book, The Artless Landscape. Michael Rosenthal is currently undertaking  research towards a second book on colonial Australia; Governor Macquarie’s Culture.

Click here for Professor Rosenthal’s article:

“The Extraordinary Mr Earle” by Michael Rosenthal
in The World Upside Down  (published by the National Library of Australia 2000)

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