Art from the National Maritime Collection on show in a series of mini exhibitions

The Australian National Maritime Museum is responsible for the National Maritime Collection and includes paintings, posters, maps, prints, objects and vessels that highlight the history and diversity of maritime cultures in Australia and across the world.


The visual art ranges from traditional depictions of vessels and port infrastructure, to works by contemporary artists that explore our relationship with the sea.


From June 7, the museum, as part of its 30th anniversary celebrations, is showing some of the gems from the National Collection, the first of which are four large works, on display for the next 6 months.


The Red Jacket in Hobson’s Bay, Captain Thomas Robertson, 1856–57


Red Jacket, one of the largest and fastest clipper ships, was built in 1853 by George Thomas of Rockland, Maine, USA. It was commissioned by the British White Star Line to the design of American Donald McKay. Red Jacket broke the transatlantic crossing speed record on its first voyage to Liverpool, to be fitted out for the Australian immigrant service.


In the age of clippers, rivalry between shipping companies was fierce, with large sums of money gambled on which vessel was fastest. Red Jacket took a record of just 69 days on its maiden run from Britain to Melbourne. Included in the painting are the clippers James Baines, which subsequently sailed to Melbourne in 65 days, and Lightning. These three vessels, all designed by Donald McKay, represented the zenith of clipper ship design and construction.


ANMM Collection 00006060 Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds



Hobart Town 1856, Henry Gritten, 1856


The original European occupation of Australia relied solely on ships to transport people, cargo and mail until well into the 20th century. The town of Hobart was established as a penal settlement in 1803 on a deep-water port on the Derwent River.


This depiction of the town by Henry Gritten was painted in 1856, the same year that the colony changed its name from Van Diemen’s Land to Tasmania. It shows how, within 50 years, Hobart was attracting international shipping, including a three-masted, American-flagged fast clipper that could carry passengers and cargo worldwide.


ANMM Collection 00018553 Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds



The Great White Fleet Entering Sydney Harbour Through the Heads, Rupert Bunny, about 1908


US President Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet circumnavigated the world from 1907 to 1909. Including up to 16 white-painted battleships, it demonstrated America’s goodwill and its arrival as a global naval power.


The fleet’s visit to Sydney, Melbourne and Albany in 1908 at the request of Prime Minister Alfred Deakin was met with immense public support. It also marked a new era in Australian defence policy, which now included the USA.


ANMM Collection 00050474 Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds



The Gospel Ship, 19th century


Life for seamen in the 19th century could be dissolute and dangerous. The Gospel Ship, bearing Biblical messages, was a way of reaching out and relating Christian values to the lives of sailors.


This charcoal-on-linen drawing was salvaged from a hotel in Hobart, Tasmania, prior to its demolition in the 1970s.


ANMM Collection 00044264