John Glover (1767 – 1849) was an English-born Australian artist during the early colonial period of Australian art. In Australia he has been dubbed “the father of Australian landscape painting”. Glover was born at Houghton-on-Hill in Leicestershire, England. His parents were farmer William Glover and Ann (née Bright). He showed a talent for drawing at an early age, and in 1794 was practicing as an artist and drawing-master in Lichfield and Aldridge. The Countess of Harrington helped establish his practice as an art instructor, and may have taken lessons from him herself. He moved to London in 1805, became a member of the Old Water Colour Society, and was elected its president in 1807. In the ensuing years he exhibited a large number of pictures at the exhibitions of this society, and also at the Royal Academy and the Society of British Artists. He had one-man shows in London in 1823 and 1824. He was a very successful artist and, although never elected a member of the Academy, his reputation stood very high with the public.
Glover achieved fame as a painter of “Italianate” romantic landscapes of Britain (including The falls of Foyers on Loch Ness, the Lake District and London) and Southern Europe. He became known in both England and France as the English Claude. This phrase was making comparison with Glover and the French seventeenth century artist Claude Lorrain, whose works collected by eighteenth century English “grand tourists”, strongly influenced the evolution of the English style, in both painting and the layout of landscape gardens. Glover decided to move to Australia, arriving in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) on his 64th birthday in 1831. He brought with him a strong reputation as a landscape painter. From April 1831 until early 1832 he lived in Hobart on a property named “Stanwell Hall”.
A view of the artist’s house and garden, in Mills Plains, Van Diemen’s Land, 1835, Art Gallery of South Australia. Glover is best known now for his paintings of the Tasmanian landscape. He gave a fresh treatment to the effects of the Australian sunlight on the native bushland by depicting it bright and clear, a definite departure from the darker “English country garden” paradigm. Note this example Patterdale Farm (circa 1840). His treatment of the local flora was also new because it was a more accurate depiction of the Australian trees and scrubland. Glover noted the “remarkable peculiarity of the trees” in Australia and observed that “however numerous, they rarely prevent your tracing through them the whole distant country“. Natives on the Ouse River, Van Diemen’s Land (1838) is “informed by European notions of an Antipodean Arcadia, with Indigenous people living in a landscape unsullied by European contact.” However, it stands in marked contrast to the actual situation of the traditional owners of Ouse River country – the Braylwunyer people of the Big River nation – which was one of dispossession and violence at the hands of the colonists. John Glover’s last major work was painted on his 79th birthday.