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Thomas Baines (1820-1875)
Thomas Baines (1820-1875)

St George's Church Burial Ground, Cape Town

Thomas Baines (1820-1875)
St George's Church Burial Ground, Cape Town
signed, inscribed and dated 'ST GEORGE'S CHURCH BURIAL / GROUND / CAPE TOWN / TBAINES / CAPE TOWN / MAY 20 / 1847' on the reverse
oil on canvas
18 x 25in. (45.7 x 63.5cm.)
(probably) Frederick Logier (1801-1867), Cape Town.
Corporate collection, London.
King's Lynn, King's Lynn Museum, Thomas Baines 1820-1875 King's Lynn traveller and pictureman, July-August 1975 (travelling exhibition to Southampton Art Gallery, Sept. 1875 and Fine Art Society, London Oct. 1875), no. 4.

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Lot Essay

Possibly one of the 'half a dozen pictures' commissioned by Frederick Logier, the organist at St George's Church, from Baines in Cape Town c.1846-47. Logier's was the artist's first commission and changed the course of his career.

Baines, an 'ornamental painter' from King's Lynn, had arrived in Cape Town in November 1842 on the schooner Olivia. He spent three years in Cape Town doing menial jobs and latterly as a coach painter, with, as he described in his journal, enough materials to dabble in landscapes: 'The windows of the upper store commanded on one side the whole extent of the Bay, and on the other of the town and mountains, and the colours necessary to the decoration of a coach supplied me with the means of transferring to canvas much of the picturesque scenery I daily witnessed. After about three years of poverty and hard though not incessant toil, a friend, the son of the late eminent musician Bernard Logier, enforcing his arguments by a commission for half a dozen pictures, persuaded me to profess myself an artist and trust entirely to my pencil for support; and, nothing loth though somewhat fearful for the result, I complied with his advice and soon found that I had no reason to repent the step that I had taken.' (R.F. Kennedy (ed.), Journal of Residence in Africa 1842-1853 by Thomas Baines, vol. I (1842-1849), Cape Town, 1961, p.8). The Cape of Good Hope Almanac lists Baines as a 'marine portrait painter, 1 dixon-street' in 1846 and as 'marine painter, 140 long-street' in 1847 and 1848.

This is one of Baines's first canvases painted in Cape Town. At this early stage in his career, Baines's materials are very rudimentary: the thin 'canvas' support here appears cannibalised, and the bituminous paints probably from his coach builder employer's supplies.

St George's was Cape Town's Anglican church and later cathedral, built, after designs for the neo-Greek St Pancras Church, on a site at the lower end of the Dutch East India Company's gardens at the corner of Government Avenue and Wale Street. The foundation stone laid in 1832 and services commenced on 21 December 1834. Bishop Robert Gray was ordained bishop of the newly created diocese of Cape Town in 1847, and his installation at St George's transformed it from a modest parish church to Cape Town's Anglican cathedral. The original church burial ground, long gone, was to the left of the church on the lower slopes of Signal Hill, the site now a parking lot, the Anglican church offices and a nursery school. If this is the site, then Baines's viewpoint looks over the burial ground to the waters of Table Bay below, with Robben Island glimpsed on the horizon beyond.

Baines attended the church from the time of his arrival in 1842: 'Fortunately perhaps for me when I first arrived in Cape Town our excellent and venerable minister, Mr. Hough [Rev. George Hough, Senior Colonial Chaplain, 1817-1847], had persuaded me to attend the Sunday School in connexion with the church, and, after a few weeks' probation among the lower classes, I was promoted to the charge of the first, which consisted nominally of about twenty but in reality of eight or nine intelligent lads, who became my companions in many a day's and sometimes a night's adventure among the mountains. (Journal, p.10, and for Baines's watercolour of the interior of the church, see pl.3, facing p.17)

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