Museum of Brisbane

St Helena painting uncovered

Our job is to find the extraordinary in the seemingly ordinary, and our guest curator for The many lives of Moreton Bay, Ron Kelly, recently made a surprising (and very exciting) discovery – the only known painting of St Helena Island as a working prison.

The stunning watercolour, which went from sitting at the back of a cupboard wrapped in cloth for 30 years, to changing many of our assumptions about St Helena Island, will give Museum visitors a perspective of the Island that hasn’t been seen in more than 100 years.

In an incredible twist of fate, Ron met Trisha Anderson at a local theatre luncheon, who had the painting in her family for years. All she knew about the painting was it was given to her grandfather William Gall, a comptroller for prisons in Queensland, as a retirement gift.

Trisha had a hunch the painting would some day prove significant and she was right; the watercolour, which dates back to 1878, has revealed many unknown details about the Island. The artist, Charles Winn, was also identified as a prisoner on St Helena.

We are extremely grateful to Trisha for donating this spectacular work to the Museum. In this video, we hear her discuss the remarkable find with our Director Peter Denham and St Helena historian Lauren Penny.

The many lives of Moreton Bay opens 14 February 2014

Learn more: How the painting was restored