Paterson was born in Dundee, Scotland, in 1851. He exhibited his first painting at the age of twenty at the Royal Scottish Academy Schools, Edinburgh, where he was trained. In his second trip to Melbourne in 1884, Paterson became associated with the Heidelberg School, and exhibited at the famous 1889 9 x 5 Impression Exhibition. He was a founding member of the short lived Australian Artists’ Association (1886-87) and the more successful Victorian Artists’ Society (established 1888), exhibiting with them for over twenty years.
Until now this painting has been catalogued under the descriptive title of Seascape with Fisherman, but in fact it was displayed in the 1887 summer exhibition of the Australian Artists’ Association as Half-moon Bay – Trawling by Midnight and priced at £12. Half Moon Bay, Black Rock, located between Brighton and the more remote Sandringham was popular with artists at the time.
In the 1890s nocturne paintings became so popular as to become a sub-genre in Australian art, and Paterson anticipates this romantic ‘movement’ by some years. Undoubtedly, he was inspired by the master of the nocturne himself, James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903). The nocturne remained a favourite subject with Paterson and he continued to paint this theme until his death in 1912.
John Ford Paterson (1851–1912)
Half Moon Bay - Trawling by Midnight, 1887
Oil on panel signed and dated lower right: John Ford Paterson 1887
inscription: The property of J. S. McDonald
34.2 x 51cm 70/23