Signalling a fi ne history
ACASUAL glance will convey to the discerning reader that this is an exceptionally high- quality publication. It’s unusually formatted as a horizontal large coffee- table style hardback with full colour.
This limited- edition collection is unique in its presentation of fl ags, semaphore signals and sketches of boats that came to Hobart Town in the mid- 19th century.
This is a collection of the amazing- yet-obscure works of Private Edward Murphy of the 99th Regiment of Foot, deployed in Hobart Town in the 1840s and 1850s.
It’s the work of a fastidious and meticulous mind with an obsessive interest in all things of a maritime nature.
The detail, accuracy and painstaking techniques displayed here make the subjects important and idiosyncratic works of art in their own right.
As well, they provide an historical record of communication between ships at sea during those important Colonial years.
The fact that Private Murphy had no education, was completely untrained and made his own colours is remarkable.
The work exhibits vibrancy, consistency and durability in the images and adds to their surprising qualities.
How did he get the work exactly the same every time?
Art historians in particular will be indebted to Mark Risby for having the sensitivity, persistence and dedication to the task of researching, writing and producing the collection of Murphy’s works.
The Risby family is well known in Tasmania for its social and economic contribution to the state. As the brilliant forward explains, the fi rst of the Risby clan came to Van Diemens Land in 1826.
Initially, Edward Risby was transported to Botany Bay in 1808, then later to Norfolk Island until its closure as a penitentiary.
Choosing to settle permanently in Van Diemens Land, Edward Risby established a highly successful boat- building industry and its various manifestations prospered for a century and a half.
Hobart Town had a population of about 8000 in 1850 and consequently, as contemporaries, it’s likely that members of the Murphy and Risby families may have even been acquainted.
Seventh generation Mark Risby’s somewhat belated interest was provoked by his research into the family house fl ag used as a proud business talisman for more than a century.
Now the connection with the brilliant work of Murphy has emerged.
This publication will not arouse the casual page fl ipper, but will certainly become a reference resource for artists and maritime historians.
Like the work itself, the book requires a disciplined and dedicated reader.