Shirley Jones is a local Ringwood East resident, historian and artist who has published several books about art and history. This evening Shirley launched her latest work entitled a ‘Quiet Painter’, a biography on the life of James Alfred Turner, an early Croydon resident and renowned painter.
James Alfred Turner was born in 1850 and migrated to Australia from Yorkshire in the United Kingdom when he was 22, with his brother Charles who was 23 at the time. At this time James was already a dedicated art student and quickly became an artist seeking commissions.
The rail line through to Lilydale was completed in 1882 and made the townships along the rail corridor, such as Croydon much more accessible for people in Melbourne. James had already visited the Croydon and Kilsyth area from the mid 1870s and purchased a property opposite the intersection of Colchester Road and Mount Dandenong Road in Kilsyth.
The 20 acres he purchased had a small dwelling surrounded by bush and natural bush landscapes were a prominent feature of James’ paintings.
James was a prolific painter and regularly exhibited his works. In 1903 James’ rural landscapes were re-produced for postcards and became extremely popular, resulting in reproductions well into the 1930s.
Throughout his 36 years in Australia, James produced at least 600 paintings until he suffered from a heart attack on the 15th of April 1908. James’ wifeMary Ann passed away on the 10th of October 1950 at the age of 87.
While James’ artwork fell into obscurity shortly after his death, interest in his works was renewed in recent years and the JA Turner Artist Trail in Croydon, as well as the JA Turner Room in the Maroondah Art Gallery at Federation Estate bear his name.
Shirley’s book a ‘Quiet Painter’ encapsulates the life of James Alfred Turner and the significance of this early colonial painter. Copies of the book are available for purchase through either the Ringwood or Croydon Historical Societies.