John William Lewin
Fish catch and Dawes Point, Sydney Harbour

Gallery 1

About this work of art


Audio description of the work of art

Fish catch and Dawes Point, Sydney Harbour by English-born artist John William Lewin is a landscape format oil painting on canvas. Painted around 1813 in Sydney, it is 86.5 cm high and 113 cm wide.

The painting features numerous fish, found in the waters of Sydney Harbour at the time, piled next to a basket. Behind the fish is the distant water of the harbour and Dawes Point, a peninsula of land where the southern end of the Harbour bridge would stand over 100 years later.

The fish are painted true to life and in proportion with each another.

An estuary perch dominates the lower half of the painting. The largest fish, its head is in the lower right of the painting with its cylindrical body narrowing to a square tail at centre left. With bulbous spherical eyes and its mouth wide open, it is grey and black with a white belly. Its dorsal fin is a series of eight sharp points on its back.

In the lower left are rainbow wrasse fish, one laying on its side, with another on top of it. With almond shaped bodies, their red faces, fins and tails are striped with blue. They have small red eyes, red backs and white sides.

In the lower right are five sea mullet fish. Long and narrow, with pointed faces and triangular tails, they have grey backs and white bellies, pink fins and circular yellow eyes. Behind the mullet fish is the claw and circular plate-like body of a crab.

Above the sea mullets is a crimson squirrel fish, a flat oval-shaped body narrowing to a rectangular tail. With a red face, back and fins, its white scales, each edged with red, create a striped pattern along its side.

In the upper right of the painting is a snapper fish. Upside down, it has a pink head and a square chin, its rectangular grey body narrowing to a pointed pink tail.

In the left of the painting, behind the pile of fish, is a hammerhead shark lying on the sand. With brown smooth skin, it has a triangular fin in the centre of its back. The hammer-like head, a horizontal cylindrical fleshy form, has large white eyes either end.

Behind the fish, in the right of the painting is a large brown woven basket. Behind the basket, is a large rounded rock that dominates the upper right of the painting.

In the upper left of the painting, far in the background, are the waters of the harbour. Two tiny square buildings, one with a peaked roof, and a flagpole stand on a peninsula of land. People, tiny red dots of paint, stand around the buildings. It is possibly early morning or evening as the sky is red, orange and yellow.

Due to age, there are fine cracks across the entire painted surface.

The painting is signed in the lower left corner, ‘J.W.Lewin’.