The Artists

George Lance




watercolour on paper
38.9 x 96.3cm
Accession number: 106/0000
Collection: Warrnambool Art Gallery

The City of Warrnambool is situated on Lady Bay on the southern coast in the Western District of Victoria, 262 kilometres south west of Melbourne.

There have been several suggestions as to the origin of the name 'Warrnambool'. One is that the area was known to the local Aborigines as 'wirnimble', meaning 'place of plenty'; while the more popular belief is that the name was derived from 'warnambul', a Kuurn Kopan Noot Aboriginal term, meaning 'two swamps'.

French navigator and explorer, Nicolas Baudin first visited Lady Bay in 1802, and later whalers and sealers visited Lady Bay in the 1830's and 1840's. Warrnambool Harbour quickly grew, and it soon became a very popular harbour, as it provided a deep bay with direct sea access to the Southern Ocean.

However, Lady Bay was not always as calm as shown in this work. The area was known for its unpredictable weather, and for both south easterly and south westerly gales that could spring up with little warning.

J.K. Loney in his Wrecks along the Great Ocean Road, published in 1973, lists a number of ships that were wrecked within Lady Bay.

A story of one of the heroes of our coastline relates to the sinking of the 'Enterprise' in Lady Bay on 14 September 1850. The 'Enterprise' was anchored in Lady Bay prior to sailing with a full cargo of potatoes and wheat, when the wind commenced from the south and gradually veered to the south east, increasing to gale force. She carried only one anchor and when this dragged, she lost her rudder and blew broadside on the surf well up on the sand. An Aboriginal named Buckawall swam out with a rope tied around his waist, and despite a terrific buffeting succeeded in getting a line aboard, thus enabling Captain Caught and his crew to land. A memorial plaque to the 'Enterprise' was mounted at St. John's Presbyterian Church, Warrnambool, and a memorial plaque to Buckawall can be found along the walkway above the shore of Lady Bay.

Little is known of the watercolour artist, George Lance who produced this work, other than he painted in Warrnambool in the 1880's. In the work, he has depicted to the left, sailing ships at anchor off what was known as the Tramways Jetty. To the right, across Lady Bay, he has depicted the low Breakwater Rock, the large Middle Island and further to its right, a portion of Merri Island. Visible atop Middle Island is the lighthouse built in 1859.

A second lighthouse had been built on the beach to the left of the Tramways Jetty. Although not shown in this painting, the second lighthouse is shown in the work, 'Port of Warrnambool 1858 from Flagstaff Hill' which is held in the collection of the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum in Warrnambool.

One important aspect of both of these works is that they depict Lady Bay and the Warrnambool Harbour as it was, before the commencement of the building of the Breakwater in the late 1880's, resulting in the creation of Stingray Bay between the Breakwater and the islands. It is recorded that the Breakwater was not completed until 1914. The Breakwater has also had a profound effect on Lady Bay, with the shape and depth of the bay changed considerably, through the altered patterns in sand deposition.

A third artwork depicting Warrnambool Harbour is, 'Port of Warrnambool' by S.T. Gill. This third work, like the second, is also in the collection of the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum in Warrnambool.

Andrew Mackenzie

Further information:
Wrecks in Lady Bay, Warrnambool
Wrecks from Warrnambool to the South Australian Border

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Left: Arthur Streeton - Above Us The Great Grave Sky, 1890
Collection: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

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