A Lift on the Way

James Alfred Turner

JA Turner A Lift on the Way 1906
A Lift on the Way by James Alfred Turner


James Alfred Turner
A Lift on the Way
oil on canvas
45 x 29 cm

signed lower left: J A Turner 1906

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This painting immortalises the infamous swaggie, such an iconic character from Australian bushlife. Here, itinerant farm labourers travelling with their belongings in a swag, catch a lift on a passing horse and cart used to transport items such as food produce, wool and timber. Turner’s paintings provide historical insight into the colonial life in Australia, cited within a rather romantic landscape with billowing clouds and a looming misty mountain providing the backdrop.

James Alfred Turner migrated to Melbourne from England around 1873, quickly establishing himself as an artist. His paintings depicting the life of Australian settlers, bush life and characters, full of hardship and humour were exhibited at the Victorian Artists’ Society; the Australian Art Association; the Victorian Academy of the Arts; the Yarra Sculptors’ Society; the Melbourne Art Club and the New Melbourne Art Club. A commission saw 14 of his paintings acquired by the newly founded Art Gallery of Ballarat in 1884. Whilst Turner did not perhaps achieve great critical acclaim by his contemporaries, many of whom viewed his work as sentimental, the popularity of his imagery saw a number of his paintings printed as popular postcards (the first in 1904 and 46 colour postcards were issued). Turner created mostly domestic sized paintings (although occasionally larger scale), full of detail and incident and are now especially valued for their historical record of rural life – depicting the changing bush landscape; construction of dwellings and farming; livestock; transport; clothing; tools. The atmospheric skies and picturesque landscape do not deny the harshness and hardship of life in developing colonial Australia.