ACCOMPLISHED but mysterious is how early colonial artist Thomas Clark is often described.
The opportunity to find out more about the artist and see what parts of western Victoria looked like in the 1860s is drawing good attendances to the Exposing Thomas Clark: A Colonial Artist in Western Victoria exhibition at Hamilton Art Gallery.
The exhibition of 32 paintings is the first major survey of the artist’s career and brings together his most significant works from major collections and private holdings.
Something of a legendary figure in late colonial art, the Melbourne-based Clark is typically remembered as the highly-respected teacher of Tom Roberts and Frederick McCubbin.
But his own artistic accomplishments have largely been cast aside in the shadow of his celebrated contemporaries, including Eugene von Guerard and Nicholas Chevalier.
Hamilton gallery director Danny McOwan said the local relevance of the paintings was a big drawcard.
An interactive display in the exhibition compares Clark’s landscapes with photographs of how they look today, providing a fascinating contrast and illustrating how accurate much of his topography was.
But the paintings also show how Clark, a British artist, came to terms with the Australian landscape that was dramatically different to that of his homeland.
Mr McOwan said Clark’s work had an “Englishness”, particularly in his compositional technique.
Clark’s work was often compared with that of his contemporary, von Guerard, with von Guerard considered the superior artist, Mr McOwan said.
But the exhibition allowed Clark to be assessed on his own merits and showed he painted in a different style to von Guerard, he said.
A guided tour last month to the Western District locations and landscapes that feature in Clark’s paintings was a sellout, with 98 people on two coaches taking the day-long trip.
Five participants were descendants of the artist.
The exhibition runs until November 17.
A website on the exhibition can be accessed at www.thomas-clark.info