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A Map of the City of Hobart…

  • Author: PEARSE, Denis Colbron ('DCP') (artist)
  • Publisher: Illustrated Tasmanian Mail, Hobart
  • Date: 1927
  • Dimensions: sheet: 60 x 91 cms


A Map of the City of Hobart: British-born artist Dennis Colbron Pearse’s amusing & whimsical 1927 pictorial map

About this piece:

A Map of the City of Hobart, depicting its streets, parks & chief buildings, some of its activities & beauties – not forgetting its “double-deckers” and motor buses as supplied by the City fathers.

Colour printed lithograph map, originally issued as a special free supplement to the Jubilee Christmas number of the “Illustrated Tasmanian Mail”, December 1st 1927. Traces of vertical & horizontal folds. A few very small cosmetic repairs and miniscule areas of retouching along line of vertical folds. The whole sheet now professionally conserved and laid on museum-quality linen backing. Fresh bright colours. Ample margins. With all a very attractive example.

Very probably one of the earliest 20th Century pictorial maps to be published in Australasia, this striking and entertaining depiction of early 20th Century Hobart was published as a Christmas Jubilee supplement in the Illustrated Tasmanian Mail of December 1st 1927.

A couple of examples of the map are preserved in institutional collections in Australia but the identity of its original designer has hitherto remained somewhat shadowed in mystery, with the only tangible identifier being the artist’s initials “D.C.P” inscribed in the lower right corner.

The map is a remarkable compilation, perhaps drawing inspiration from the work of other contemporary British map makers and poster artists such as Leslie MacDonald Gill, particularly in respect of the humorous vignettes, comic quips & amusing speech bubbles that emerge from the mouths of the numerous City residents who populate the map.

The map itself encompasses the metropolitan precincts of Hobart and includes the dominant green expanse of the Domain Park with the City Harbour, Sullivan’s Cove, Prince’s Park & Battery Point to the south and East with the shoreline of Sandy Bay beyond. Cornelian Bay Cemetery & the Old Risdon Race Course are shown to the North West with the Government Farm, New Town Institution and the Consumptive Sanitorium in the South West and Knocklofty Terrace and suburban South Hobart along bottom of the image, where illustrations of local transport also predominate: one of Hobart’s renowned “double-decker” trams; a large motorised charabanc filled with visiting tourists & causing panic amongst the City’s more elderly residents;  the  traditional mode of local travel,  horse & carriage, and a seemingly recent innovation, the yellow motorized taxi cab. City tram and bus routes are highlighted by red & red dotted lines. The evident tensions between Hobart motor users and local tram & railways officials is alluded to in the vicious street fight taking place between the two sides in the lower right corner of the map.

The main buildings and sites of the City are denoted in profile whilst major commercial shops, factories, and businesses are also marked out with special red labels.

In the sea waters in the upper section of the map, appears the City’s unofficial coat of arms, pre-dating the one that was formally adopted in 1953. The City’s motto Sic Fortis Hobartia Crevit (Thus in strength did Hobart grow) was derived from the City Council’s old Common seal. The armorial’s supporters, a kangaroo and emu, banter amusingly with one another, whilst above them, a young Scout marches forward to check the accuracy of the Map’s adjacent Scale of Chains (approx). Beside the coat of arms, a Tasmanian worker in overalls holds a Latin banner which reads Locus est et plurimis umbris (there is room for even more guests at the feast (Horace)) – the deeper meaning & particular local significance of this illustration remains uncertain. In the upper right, a yellow biplane “looking for the aerodrome”, may reference the first ever powered aerial flight over Hobart by New South Wales pilot Delfosse Badgery in his French Caudron biplane in September 1914. There are many other entertaining vignettes and amusing illustrations across the map – Mr Murdoch trying to push Tasmania further away from the Mainland; future channel swimmers being encouraged by children & lemonade in Cornelian Bay; a dead sheep on the Domain – the victim of  a surfeit of the Attorney General’s daisies according to a nearby policeman; and last but not least a Nessie-like sea monster witnessed by local Hobartians in the waters off the Botanic Gardens in June 1927. Ever topical, the 21 ft racing yacht, Tassie, can be seen off Sullivan’s Cove, its local skipper and designer, William Percy (“Skipper”) Batt, standing triumphant with the Forster Cup held aloft, following his third successive victory in Adelaide in Feb 1927 in this most hotly contested sailing competition. Her successor, Tassie Too, which would win the 1928 Forster Cup, had been launched from the Battery Point Slips in Hobart just a few days prior to this map’s publication, on 26th Nov 1927.

Further research reveals the map’s designer and author as talented British-born artist & illustrator and early pioneer of the Scouting movement, Denis Colbron Pearse [1883-1971].

Pearse was born on January 19th 1883 in London, the eldest son of successful British artist & illustrator, Alfred Pearse [1855-1933] and his wife, Mary Blanche (née Lockwood). Denis was in fact the fifth generation of Pearse artists, his father Alfred having been the son of Joseph Salter Pearse, a celebrated Victorian decorative artist. Alfred (nicknamed “punctual Pearse”) was a well-known black & white artist and principal illustrator of Pictorial World & later Boys Own Paper for nearly five decades [1878-1923]. In the Great War he was a war artist, with the official rank of Captain, posted to the front with New Zealand forces. He was also special artist & correspondent for the Sphere during the 1927 Royal Empire tour of the Duke & Duchess of York and also designed the 1911 investiture robes of the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VIII).

In the early 1900s, the Pearse family resided in Hampstead and were actively involved in the Hampstead Scientific Society, Denis being appointed its Hon.Secretary.

DCP was already beginning to map out a potential career as a commercial illustrator, much of his early work focusing on popular wildlife & children’s books.  In 1905 he took a commission as a junior subaltern with the Cadet Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment), a Volunteer territorial unit. By 1907 DCP had formed a close association with Boer War veteran, Robert Baden-Powell, whose ideas on the development of a national Scout movement received enormous popular support in the wake of his book, Scouting for Boys, first published in January 1908. Within a few weeks, DCP had formed the 1st Hampstead Troop, one of the first units of the British Scouting movement. The “Firsts” took part in the earliest ever inter-troop Scout competition against Putney on Wimbledon Common in May 1908, an event which involved a series of contests in cooking, tent-pitching, fire-lighting & tree-felling! DCP was soon touring the country with his demonstration patrol, the Kangaroos, acting as a sort of travelling secretary for the movement, coordinating his demonstration work with new local Scout committees that soon sprung up in large cities and towns across the nation. He visited Sunderland and took part in a month long camp at Grindon hosted by the leader of the brewing family, Col Ernest Vaux, who had formed another of the earliest Scout troops. Shortly afterwards he was joint commandant with Baden-Powell of the first national gathering of 36 young Scouts at Humshaugh Camp. In January 1911, DCP was presented with the rare Silver Wolf award, the foremost medal in Scouting, by Baden-Powell himself. His Scouting interests are also apparent in his book illustration work during this period: Woodcraft for Scouts & Others [1910] and The Owl Patrol [1914].

At the outbreak of World War One, DCP remained with his pre-war Territorial unit, before being transferred to the Manchester Regiment in August 1916, and according to a later interview saw active service in the East & other theatres. In March of that same year, taking a break from military training on Salisbury plain, he  married Evelyn Spicer at Neasden in Middlesex. His artistic talents also re-emerged during this period as the designer of several wartime Public Information posters, including one on how to deal with enemy incendiary bombs.

Following the end of the war, DCP & his wife emigrated to Tasmania in 1922, purchasing a farm called the Brown House in the Clarence Valley. Initially he worked as agent for local landowner, Col J H Macdonald. Rural life clearly did not live up to expectations and in  late 1925 the couple sold up and moved to Hobart, where DCP quickly established himself as a commercial artist & illustrator. He had already undertaken a commission (a picture entitled Wattle & Gum) for the Illustrated Tasmanian Mail in Sept 1924 and one of his political cartoons, entitled The Kangaroo Bars Bolshevism, appeared in the Hobart Mercury of 12th Nov 1925. He was described by one colleague in the 1920s as “very English” and as “a shy and retiring man, very approachable, always willing to go out of his way to help”. Within a short period, he became actively involved with the Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery. He was appointed its Gallery manager and later its Acting Director, a post from which he retired in 1953 after 15 years’ service. He also became well-known as an important local artist and illustrator of Tasmanian wildlife and native culture. In the late 1920s he was Hon Secretary of the Art Society of Tasmania and an active conservationist & member of the Hobart Field Naturalists’ Club. In 1947 he designed a series of wildlife stickers for Australia’s Animal & Bird’s Protection Board. From his first arrival, he played a prominent & highly influential role in the Tasmanian Scouting movement. After initially serving as its Publicity Manager, he became Assistant Chief-Commissioner in 1926, when Baden-Powell himself visited Tasmania as part of the founder’s tour of Australia. He was appointed the Association’s Secretary from 1925-1936.  He also founded an employment agency for former Scouts in Hobart and maintained a regular Scouting feature in the Illustrated Tasmanian Mail for many years.

Denis Colbron Pearse died in Tasmania in 1971 aged 89.

This map offers a unique & amusing visual record of inter-war Hobart as well as a testament to the whimsical talents of one of Tasmania’s most cherished 20th Century artists & illustrators, and also one of her most influential & perhaps undeservedly overlooked Scouting pioneers.

Refs: National Library of Australia Collections; W L Crowther Library, Tasmania Archive & Heritage Office; Scouting Personalities – Captain Denis Colbron Pearse