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Picnic at Mrs Macquarie’s Chairc 1855

by Unknown artist

This lively painting of an Anniversary Day regatta dates from the mid-1850s. Anniversary Day, which had been celebrated since 1837, commemorated what is now called Australia Day. The scene shows all levels of society gathered at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, cut into foreshore on the east of Farm Cove. Intriguingly the depiction of Mrs Macquarie’s Chair is entirely out of all proportion to its actual scale, which is modest.

The painting depicts ladies and gentlemen enjoying the picnic, with workers tucking into a feast on their blanket. Pie-men hawk their wares, a fruit vendor waits for customers, and children run amongst them all. Mid-19th century artists enjoyed capturing the panorama of diversity in their society.