Conrad Martens

Governor Bourke’s statue, overlooking the Harbour

Sponsored by Peter J Hack

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Despite opposition to many of his views favouring religious tolerance, emancipation and government education, Sir Richard Bourke had been a popular governor. Following his return to England in 1837 a statue was commissioned in his honour, now located outside the Mitchell Library building. At its unveiling in 1842, it was located at the southern entrance to the Royal Botanic Gardens, then the Governor’s Domain.

Oriented to face towards the Harbour, it seemed to survey and possess the land and harbour beyond, an area of great significance to the local Cadigal people as well as to the settlement. Bennelong Point, now the site of the Sydney Opera House, had long been a place of ceremony and initiation.

This view was painted by prolific professional artist Conrad Martens, only months after the statue was unveiled. Depicted from behind and framed by casuarina trees on the right, Martens has highlighted the view from the statue, creating a sense of Bourke as heroic symbol of a dawning civilisation.