The Artists

Albert Charles Cooke




13.7 x 22.7cm
Collection: Geelong Gallery
Purchased with the assistance of the Caltex-Victorian Government Art Fund
and the Gallery Grasshoppers, 1985

Queenscliff is an historic seaside resort, situated 103 kilometres south west of Melbourne. It is located on a promontory of the Bellarine Peninsula, close to 'The Rip' on the western side of the entrance to Port Phillip Bay.

The Wathawurung Aborigines are thought to have occupied the area before European settlement.

Queenscliff grew from a fishing village which sprang up in the early 1840's and was first known as Whale Head or Shortlands Bluff. Shortlands Bluff was so named in 1837 by Lieutenant Thomas Symons of 'H.M.S. Rattlesnake'. At the time, William Hobson was captain of 'H.M.S. Rattlesnake'. Hobson was surveying Port Phillip Bay, and Peter Frederick Shortlands, after who the area was named, was Master Gunner of his ship.

In 1852, Lieutenant Governor of Victoria, Charles Joseph La Trobe renamed the area 'Queenscliff' as a tribute to Queen Victoria. In 1885, Fort Queenscliff was established, as a permanent defence over Port Phillip Bay. It was originally built against the supposed Russian threat of the 1880's.

This watercolour by Albert Charles Cooke depicts the front beach at Queenscliff, with the Lighthouse and Telegraph Station on Shortlands Bluff and the baths on the beach in the distance. The red flag on the baths designated that this was a time restricted to gentlemen bathers, while a white flag would have designated the bathing time for women.

By the 1880's, Queenscliff had become not only a popular seaside holiday resort, but in the Touring Guide to Geelong and Southern Watering Places, edited by Campbell, it was confirmed that because the ozone came direct from the sea, 'Queenscliff was one of the healthiest places in the colony'.

Today, the National Trust has classified the Fort, built in 1885, the earlier lighthouse and keepers quarters of 1863 and the Telegraph Station.

The painter, engraver, draughtsman and illustrator, Albert Charles Cooke was born in England in 1836. He migrated to Victoria in 1854, and like Eugene von Guerard, tried his luck on the goldfields before turning his attention to art.

He produced work for Ballarat Punch in 1857, and his drawing, 'The Harbour of Warrnambool. Light-house and Middle Island' was engraved by Pett and published in the Colonial Mining Journal of Victoria, (1858-1859).

He worked in St. Kilda in the 1860's as a draughtsman, and he was later made a Fellow of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects. He also illustrated newspapers with his wood engravings and produced work for the Illustrated Australian News, one example being his work 'The Skull Rocks and Landing Place, Wilson's Promontory, 1876'.

He also produced wood engravings for the Illustrated Melbourne Post, Illustrated Sydney News, Illustrated Tasmanian News, the Leader, the Picturesque Atlas of Australasia (c. 1883-1888), and illustrations for the Illustrated Handbook of Victoria (1886).

He was a member of the Council of the Victorian Academy of Arts, 1870-1873. Around 1890, he moved to Western Australia, where he produced local watercolours. He later returned to Victoria, and died at home in Albert Park in April 1902.

Another watercolour work depicting early Queenscliff is in the Foster's Collection. This was painted by S.T. Gill around 1865, and shows how people reached the lighthouse entrance, situated four metres above the ground.

Further information:
Wrecks, Strandings and Collisions near Pt. Lonsdale, at Port Phillip Heads

Andrew Mackenzie

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