The Balnaves Gift
View from Watson’s Bay (1860) is one of the oldest pieces in The Banaves Gift. The artwork depicts the view from above Watson’s Bay across the harbour to the foreshores of Mosman from Middle Head to Cremorne Point. The Clifton Gardens Hotel is also noted at Chowder Bay. It is thought that this painting shows the first telegraph poles erected in Sydney. Bathed in atmospheric, romantic light and treated in a detailed naturalistic manner, this artwotrk exemplifies the academic realist approach favoured by colonial artists before the advent of the Australian Impressionist style.
Very little is known about George F. Halstead and his background. He was primarily awatercolour painter working in Sydney during the 1860s to 1880s when he painted Sydney and also the Blue Mountains from various vantage points. He signed his works F. Halstead and also G. F. Halstead. He may have been a son of Captain George A. Halsted RN whose sketchbook of English views (c.1842-59) is in the Mitchell Library. The Mitchell Library also has three drawings depicting gold-diggings scenes which are initialled 'G.F.H.’. One is dated 1852, which perhaps indicates when George F. Halstead arrived in the colony.
This artwork was originally part of the renowned Cowlishaw Collection of colonial art. Keith Cowlishaw, Mayor of Mosman from 1940-1945 was a sixth generation Australian whose wealthy family had extensive pastoral holdings in the Darling Downs. His mother was a member of the Rabone family of Mosman. A collector from a young age, Cowlishaw acquired a very fine collection of colonial art during his lifetime, and generously donated some substantial pieces to Mosman Council at the close his Mayoral tenure. Thus it is very fitting that View from Watson’s Bay (1860) is reunited with other works formerly of the Cowlishaw Collection, now held within the Mosman Art Gallery Collection.