Industrial Cathedral

Industrial Cathedral
"Industrial Cathedral" charcoal drawing on paper 131 x 131 cm Jane Bennett. This drawing was a finalist in the 1998 Dobell Prize for Drawing (Art Gallery of N.S.W.) ; Finalist in 1998 Blake Prize for Religious Art ; Winner of 1998 Hunter's Hill Open Art Prize

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Navigator and the King

'La Perouse' - Windows on History
still life vanitas oil painting of maps hourglass compass telescope & other antique navigation instruments by heritage artist Jane Bennett
'La Perouse - the navigator and the King' 
 2010 oil on canvas 46 x 46cm
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still life vanitas oil painting of maps sextant compasses & other antique navigation instruments by heritage artist Jane Bennett
La Perouse - 'The Art of Navigation'  
2010 oil on canvas 75 x 100cm

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Exhibited in the Laperouse Museum until January 2011.
These paintings were inspired by meditation on the unpredictable nature of history, exploration and the fate of nations.

The portrait of the gallant yet doomed La Perouse receiving his commission from his equally ill-fated monarch is doubly ironic. The antipodean voyage of La Perouse was personally planned by the king together with the explorer and the loss of the expedition caused Louis XVI both personal grief and political humiliation.
Louis XVI sought to reinvigorate the stagnating French economy through trade and had invested a great deal of the government finances into improving the French Navy. This was both a personal and a political goal. His private study was filled with nautical charts and the burnished brass of mathematical instruments, telescopes, sextants and the locks which the King himself designed and made. Louis XVI sought also to regain the colonial power and prestige lost by his grandfather in the Seven Year’s War. Much of the debt burdening his government was a consequence of French involvement in the revolt of the American colonies against Britain. A radical program of naval reconstruction was undertaken by first Turgot, then Sartine and finally de Castries. These brilliant, though fiscally irresponsible men attempted to transform the French navy into the equal of the British fleet, but heroic projects such as the transformation of Cherbourg harbour came at a ruinous price.
If Governor Philip and all his ships had been lost at sea and La Perouse had made a triumphant return to France after adding the continent of Australia to France’s extensive colonial empire, what could hvae been the outcome? Would Australia have been settled by French colonists or become a battleground between the French and British Empires as Canada had been? If La Perouse’s expedition had ended in a blaze of glory, would the good publicity have sufficiently enhanced the reputation of the monarchy to withstand the economic and social pressures that resulted in the anarchy of the Revolution?

Now that the exhibition in the LaPerouse Museum has finished, I'm going to enter "The Art of Navigation" in the Camden Art Prize. It's far too strange to win, it'll just confuse the judges. But I feel like being brave. And it will certainly stand out in the crowd.

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