Tasmanian-born William Charles Piguenit, who moved to Sydney in 1880, was an artist who explored and depicted wilderness landscapes in Tasmania and New South Wales in watercolours, lithographs, photographs and paintings. A versatile draughtsman, Piguenit accompanied a number of journeys into wilderness areas, seeking in his art to convey the inherent beauty in nature. The site of this painting is an area known as ‘the Rock’ in the Nepean Gorge at Mulgoa, now a suburb near the city of Penrith in the western suburbs of Sydney.1
Piguenit painted a number of dramatic vistas and heightened examples of nature. Many of his paintings display a characteristic silver light as well as glassy bodies of water. In On the Nepean, New South Wales he explored his interest in the compositional possibilities of reflections in water. The scale of the river valley is emphasised, and it would be easy to overlook the small party of rowers who, in the shadow of the cliff, move quietly up the river towards the bank. In this picture Piguenit reminds us of the idea that the journey is often more important than the destination. Humans take part in this scene, but they are insignificant in relation to nature.
1 Tim Bonyhady, Australian colonial paintings in the Australian National Gallery, Canberra: Australian National Gallery, 1986, pp. 151–52.