Working for a Selector

James Alfred Turner

J A Turner Working for a Selector 1886
Working for a Selector by James Alfred Turner

Details

Artist
James Alfred Turner
Title
Working for a Selector

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Further Information

A selector, usually British free settlers, is a farmer who has chosen land to work and farm and bring up family. Land was selected from around 1860 and Turner’s painting shows the development and hard work required to clear the land and build dwellings for living and livestock, as well as fencing. Often itinerant workers would work for lodging and food. Here the selector, with young child on hip, and hats protecting from the Australian sun, oversees the chore of logging, with cows peering through the fence, alongside hanging pelts. The painting gives an historical insight into clothing of the era; construction of settler’s hut and fencing; and a range of colonial tools, from grindstone to saw.

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.