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Conrad Martens was born at Crutched Friars, near the Tower of London, in 1801, to a German father and English mother. At the age of 16, he became a pupil of English landscape painter Anthony Vandyke Copley Fielding.
After working as a topographical artist on the Hyacinth, in 1833 Martens met Robert FitzRoy, captain of the British vessel HMS Beagle, and FitzRoy engaged him as the ship’s artist. During the voyage, Martens established an enduring friendship with famous naturalist Charles Darwin. The artist later disembarked in Chile and made his own way to Australia via Tahiti.
Settling in New South Wales in 1835, Martens achieved immediate and enduring recognition as the most proficient and prolific landscape artist in the Australian colonies. He sailed north to Brisbane in late 1851, where he received many commissions, travelling through the Darling Downs at a time of early European settlement in the region.
In the early 1860s, Conrad Martens took a position at the Parliamentary Library to make ends meet, and while this curtailed the time he could spend on his art, he was commissioned for two major public works and also entered the Paris International Exhibition in 1867. He continued to paint until a few days before his death in 1878.
See Elizabeth Ellis, ‘The life of Conrad Martens’, Queensland Visual Arts Online, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, accessed online 27 April 2017.