Isaac Walter Jenner

(18 March 1837 [8 March 1836?] - 1901 [1902?] )


Isaac Walter Jenner was born in Godalming, Surrey on March 8th, 1836. He went to sea in oyster and crab smacks as a boy and joined the Royal Navy in 1854, serving throughout the Crimean War. He left the Navy in 1865, settled in Brighton and began his career as a marine artist recording his experiences at sea. He also painted landscapes and coastal scenes, notably of British, Mediterranean and later, Australian locations.

In 1883 he emigrated to Australia where he continued his career from his studio in Taringa. He was very active in promoting the cultural development of Queensland and was one of the founder members of the Queensland Art Society, founded as a result of his petitioning of the Queensland government to build a public gallery. Jenner remained in Australia until his death in 1902.

While in Australia, Jenner continued to paint British scenes, either from memory or from sketches that he emigrated with. An exhibition of his works at the Queensland Art Society in 1889, included many oil paintings and watercolours of English coastal scenes.

© Copyright Ownership: Philip Bacon Galleries

A Genuine Artist Must Possess
Judgement to select a picturesque subject
Ability to sketch the same correctly
Talent to compose grandly
An active faculty for invention,
A fine sense or feeling for Light,
Space, & Atmosphere
A thorough appreciation of tone in colour
And power to combine them all into
One Harmonious whole.
Isaac Walter Jenner, c. 1890



Isaac Walter Jenner, c. 1890



The exhibition of paintings by the colonial 'father' of art in Queensland, Isaac Walter Jenner (1836-1902), held 4th October to 5th October 1994, of more than 130 works, most of which were for sale, was the first major Jenner exhibition since 1889.

The exhibition of more than 130 works, most fo which were for sale, included the world's largest private collection of Jenner works, and selected pieces borrowed from galleries, collectors and the Jenner family.

Originally a sailor, Jenner left the Royal Navy in 1865 after eleven years' service to devote himself to art. His knowledge and love of ships and the sea made it inevitable that he should be, above all else, a marine painter, and equally that his work should reflect the Romantic grandeur and colour of J. M. W. Turner.

With his wife and seven children, Jenner migrated to Brisbane in 1883, where he continued his successful career as a painter. Jenner led an active life in colonial Queensland where he raised the public awareness of art through exhibitions, art unions and by the founding of the Queensland Art Society.

His activities contributed to the establishment of the Queensland National Art Gallery in 1895. Jenner also offered help and encouragement to younger artists, including J. J. Hilder.

His artistic abilities were in the same category as other great artists such as John Glover and Conrad Martens, yet Jenner is virtually unknown outside Queensland.

This may be partly due to the fact that many of Jenner's Australian and New Zealand landscapes were sent to England for sale, while local collectors preferred Jenner's more romantic and atmospheric English maritimes and landscapes. Many of these lost works have been found and catalogued.

Phillip Bacon Galleries acquied a large number of Jenner's pantings about six years ago (being about 1988), to complete the world's largest private collection of the artist.

The paintings had belonged to Jenner's grand-daughter, Miss Edna Melrose, and were in need of restoration.

It was the wish of Miss Melrose that something be done with the paintings, and it is these works of art which form the nucleus of the Jenner exhibition.

The 128 page book published by the Beagle Press was launched by Ms. Betty Churcher, A.M., Director, National Gallery of Australia. The book surveys Jenner's work from 1875 to 1902, documenting 200 works, including 37 in public collections in Australia and England.

© Copyrighted Ownership: Philip Bacon Galleries.


You might have expected Brisbane to have changed in 100 years but these unique paintings -- some of them unearthed in London -- of some of the city's best-known views, show just how much it has changed.

The idyllic settings hint at a tranquillity and bush nature of Brisbane in the late 19th Century.

The paintings are recently-discovered works by Isaac Walter Jenner, regarded as Australia's "lost" colonist artist. Jenner was considered the colonial father of art in Queensland but is virtually unknown outside the state.

Experts believe on reason is that Jenner sent most of his Australian paintings to England, where they were regarded as curiosities, while local art collectors preferred his more romantic English paintings, mainly marine works.

Another reason is that many of his paintings remained in the hands of the family. The last grand-daughter, Miss Edna Melrose (who held the bulk of the paintings), died a few years ago.

A unique exhibition of Jenner's work will open at the Philip Bacon Galleries in New Farm on Tuesday -- the first time a major collection of Jenner's works has been seen since 1889.

For gallery owner Philip Bacon, the exhibition is the culmination of a decade of searching for the missing Jenners. He issued a buy order to his contacts in England and most of the really good Brisbane paintings turned up in London.

He said: "It has been a real mystery that an artist of the stature of Jenner, who has about 40 works in galleries in Australia and overseas, has been virtually unknown. In my view he is as good as any of the colonial painters."

Jenner's personal life was facinating. He was 47 years old when he left England in 1883 to settle in Brisbane with wife Mary and seven children.

He had spent 11 years in the Royal Navy, leaving in 1865 to devote himself to art. He was, inevitably, a marine painter and his works reflected the romantic grandeur of the colour of J. M. W. Turner.

It remains a mystery why, at the age of 47, he moved his wife and seven children across the world to reestablish himself in Brisbane.

"I spent a fortune trying to find the answer," Mr. Bacon said. "Most painters who came to Australia settled in Sydney, Melbourne, or Adelaide.

"We have all Jenner papers. There is no indication why he chose Brisbane. He had no connections. Perhaps he saw it as a cultural desert and thought he could enrich it."

In Brisbane, Jenner raised the public's awarness of art through exhibitions and by the founding of the Queensland Art Society. He also contributed to the establishment of Queensland National Art Gallery in 1895. He died in 1902.

More than 130 works -- most of them for sale -- will be on show at the exhibition. Two major works have already been sold -- Brisbane from Bowen Terrace to the Queensland Art Gallery for $30,000 and The Domaine from Kangaroo Point for $25, 000.

• Isaac Walter Jenner Exhibition, October 4-November 5, at Philip Bacon Galleries, 2 Athur Street, New Farm. The exhibition will be launched on Friday by the Director of the National Gallery of Australia, Mrs. Betty Churcher who will also launch the book Isaac Walter Jenner, by Gavin Fry, Bronwyn Mahoney and Bettina MacAulay. Published by Beagle Press. $66 including postage. -- JOHN HAY

Source unknown; seems a newspaper article announcing the exhibition. Content as written.

Isaac Walter Jenner lived in Brisbane after emigrating from England in 1883. His daughter Mary Ellen Jenner married Henry William Mobsby, a photographer and artistic organizer of many of the Queensland courts, in the Australian pavilions at world exhibitions.

Isaac Walter Jenner (1837-1902), artist, was born on 18 March 1837, at Brighton, Sussex, England, son of Thomas Jenner, blacksmith, and his wife Harriet, née Walter. Without known formal education, he worked on oyster and crab smacks and signed on for a voyage in Arctic waters. In March 1855, he joined the Royal Navy, serving during the Crimean War in the Black Sea and in H.M.S. Retribution at the Dardanelles. In 1864, he was present at the bombardment of Shimonoseki, Japan. Discharged in 1865, he learned to paint and worked as a landscape and marine painter in 1873-79, at Brighton and at Hove in 1880-83; he exhibited at Brighton, Lewes and once at the Royal Academy. After trouble with picture dealers, he decided to migrate and reached Brisbane by R.M.S. Roma on 19 September 1883.


Isaac Walter Jenner (1837-1902), artist, was born on 18 March 1837, at Brighton, Sussex, England, son of Thomas Jenner, blacksmith, and his wife Harriet, née Walter. Without known formal education, he worked on oyster and crab smacks and signed on for a voyage in Arctic waters. In March 1855 he joined the Royal Navy, serving during the Crimean War in the Black Sea and in H.M.S. Retribution at the Dardanelles. In 1864 he was present at the bombardment of Shimonoseki, Japan. Discharged in 1865, he learned to paint and worked as a landscape and marine painter in 1873-79 at Brighton and at Hove in 1880-83; he exhibited at Brighton, Lewes and once at the Royal Academy. After trouble with picture dealers, he decided to migrate and reached Brisbane by R.M.S. Roma on 19 September 1883.

Jenner made a living by selling paintings, holding art unions and teaching at Miss O'Connor's School, Oxley, and at the Brisbane Technical College in 1887-89. Although he travelled in New South Wales and New Zealand in 1889, he exhibited only in Brisbane and at the Centennial International Exhibition of 1888-89 in Melbourne. He had helped to found the Queensland Art Society in 1887. He considered Brisbane lacking in taste and civilized pursuits and he felt unrecognized by the art world, even to the extent of victimization. For this reason, perhaps, he moved his studio in 1890 to Montrose Road, Taringa. There he lived and worked for the rest of his life.

A self-taught marine and landscape painter of considerable ability and technical skill, Jenner painted much local scenery but continued all his life to paint English scenes from memory. His most popular subjects were the Sussex and Cornish coasts and large historical seascapes, such as his 'H.M.S. Agamemnon in the Great Gale in the Black Sea, October 14th 1854', shown at the Queensland International Exhibition of 1897. In 1895 he gave one of his large seascapes, 'Cape Chudleigh, Labrador' (1890) to the Queensland National Gallery soon after its opening.

Stylistically, Jenner was steeped in the romantic English landscape tradition with a strong preference for dawns and sunsets. He in fact taught oil and crayon drawings (sunsets) as his special subject at the Brisbane Technical College. His own art jottings underline his interest in picturesque subjects and the importance he attached to light and harmony. His 'Precept for a Painter' has, in parts, strong Ruskinian leanings. Although his contribution to art in Brisbane was considerable, his claim to be the founder of art in the colony was at least dubious. He died at Taringa on 1 March 1902 and was buried in Toowong cemetery. He was survived by his wife Mary, née Jenkins, whom he had married on 23 May 1860, at Anthony, Cornwall, and by three sons and three daughters.

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983; © Copyright Ownership: Australian Dictionary of Biography


Isaac Walter Jenner was born in Godalming, Surrey [Brighton, Sussex, England] on March 8th 1836 [18 March 1837?], son of Thomas Jenner, blacksmith, and his wife Harriet, née Walter. In his early years he went to sea in oyster and crab smacks, and then joined the Royal Navy, serving through the Crimean War of 1854-56, and leaving it in 1865. This period inspired him to take up marine painting, recalling episodes in his naval career and shipping scenes from memory.

In 1885, he immigrated to Australia, and founded the Queensland Art Society in Brisbane, where he died in 1901. Examples of his work can be found in the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane, and the Brighton Art Gallery in Sussex.


Born in Godalming Surrey, the artist went to sea in oyster and crab smacks, joined the Royal Navy, leaving in 1865, to begin marine painting. In 1885, he emigrated to Australia and founded the Queensland Art Society in Brisbane, where he died in 1901. "The Lizard" is a peninsula that sticks out into the channel so far that it is the biggest ship trap in British waters, where wrecks of all ages and treasures lay. In rough weather, the Admiralty advises navigators to stay three or more miles off the coast.



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