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HMAS AUSTRALIA was one of three Indefatigable-class battlecruisers built for the defence of the British Empire and was launched in 1911. She was the only capital ship to ever serve in the Royal Australian Navy. She saw service in the western Pacific and the North Sea during the First World War. After the war she returned to Australian waters and was placed in reserve in 1921. She was a casualty of the disarmament provisions of the Washington Naval Treaty which required the distruction of AUSTRALIA. She was scuttled off Sydney Heads in 1924.

This important painting depicts AUSTRALIA being towed by the tugs HEROIC, HEROINE, CHAMPION and ST OLAVES to the scuttling site, 25 nautical miles north east of Sydney Heads. As well as being escorted by Australian warships and the British Special Service Squadron, there were several Sydney Harbour ferries carrying civilian sightseers. No doubt the artist John Allcot was on board one of these.

John Charles Allcot (1888-1973), artist, was born on 14 November 1888 at Liverpool, Lancashire, England, son of George Allcot, mariner, and his wife Mary Elizabeth. Educated at Arnot Street Board School, at the age of 14 John was apprenticed to Tillotson & Son Ltd, lithographers, and attended classes at the Liverpool Institute and School of Art. In 1906 he worked in the Mersey tugboats and next year sailed as a deck-boy in the barque, Invermark. He loved painting and would scrounge ship's paint, sailcloth and handkerchiefs with which to depict the sea, ships and life on board. Arriving in Sydney in the Miltiades in 1909, Allcot signed on with the old clipper, Antiope. He worked in coastal, island and intercolonial vessels out of Sydney before giving up the sea in 1912. Supporting himself by painting theatre sets, he obtained commissions for ship paintings from Sydney photographers and toured the countryside, completing landscapes which he exhibited regularly with the Royal Art Society of New South Wales from 1920. He gained widespread recognition in the 1920s with a series of oil paintings on the founding of the Australian colonies, which were later acquired by the Australasian Pioneers' Club. Other commissions followed. Allcot also worked as an illustrator and wrote articles about the sea for the Sydney Mail. In the 1940s he painted the seas for ship-models built by the sculptor Robert Klippel. Allcot's painting of the Cutty Sark was presented to the Duke of Edinburgh in 1954. Allcot was dark and diminutive, less than five feet (153 cm) tall. His studio became a meeting-place for those interested in ships, paintings and models. Regular visitors included maritime artists Oswald Brett and Ian Hansen who watched him work and listened to his colourful stories of seafaring. Allcot exhibited landscapes and still lifes at Beard, Watson & Co. Ltd (1962); his paintings of ships were shown at Underwood Galleries (1965) and those of twelve windjammers at the San Francisco Maritime Museum, United States of America (1969). In Sydney he held a successful exhibition (1970) at Proud's Art Gallery to celebrate the bicentenary of James Cook's landing in Australia; Allcot's last showing took place at the Copperfield Gallery (1973). Painting to tried and tested conventions, with impeccable attention to detail, Allcot used water-colour and gouache, and oils. His work was prolific and romantic. At a time of great change in the shipping industry, he specialized in nostalgic views of sailing ships and steamers, and found an appreciative market of ship-owners, captains, crews and their families. A Fellow (1956) of the local Royal Art Society, Allcot was a member of the League of Ancient Mariners and of the Shiplovers' Society. He was elected an honorary life member (1962) of the Australasian Pioneers' Club and appointed O.B.E. in 1970. His work is represented in private and public collections in Australia and abroad.

Watercolour and gouache.

Image size. 295 x 510 mm. (11 5/8 x 20 inches).




John Allcot, Marine Artist (Syd, 1978) P. D. Lark and R. McKenzie 

Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

John Charles Allcot, by Mabel McCredie, 1944





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