Teaching the Technical College students indoors is a challenge when the sun blazes down outside.  Since becoming natives of Brisbane, we continue to enjoy the outdoors.  Selina and I regularly visit the Botanic Gardens adjacent to my workplace.  We enjoy taking tea in the shade on a carpet of purple flowers, the lilac colour most intense in late Spring.  Fortunately that is before outdoor living during daylight hours becomes unbearably tropical and summer’s afternoon thunderstorms destroy the blooms.  It is singular, this jacaranda and, I believe, the first of its kind in this city.  I think I shall paint it.

One of my favourite pieces of art is R. Godfrey Rivers’ “Under the Jacaranda” (1903) in the Queensland Art Gallery.  It depicts Rivers and his wife Selina, taking tea under the shade of a jacaranda tree in full bloom.  The tree was a landmark in Brisbane’s Botanic Gardens, which adjoined the grounds of the Brisbane Technical College where Rivers taught from 1891 to 1915. It is thought to have been the first jacaranda to be grown in Australia as  Walter Hill, the Gardens’ Superintendent, planted it in 1864.  It remained in the Gardens for 115 years until 1979, when it was blown over during a cyclone.  Part of the trunk is now located at the offices of the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens.  Other jacaranda plantings of significance can be found in the University of Queensland’s Great Court. Found in suburban backyards and streets throughout Brisbane, it is nice to think that many are the progeny of this first tree. There is a circularity with the flowers being scattered like an offering to ancestors on the gallery floor beneath the painting, literally ‘under the jacaranda’.



  1. That painting looks amazing! Great to hear the backstory behind it as well–and I like the petals on the floor–they make the painting that much more real. Thanks so much for following my blog 🙂


    • You’re welcome wordcoaster, and thank you for your feedback. If you’re ever in Brisbane QLD I highly recommend visiting the Queensland Art Gallery – but if you want to see the jacaranda flowers, October and early November are the best months. Students always associate the end of year exams with the appearance of the purple haze! Coincidentally, on 26th April 2013 (the first day of a short stay in Launceston Tasmania), I visited the spectacular Queen Victoria Art Gallery where I noticed a painting titled “The Hop Pickers between 1915-18” by ‘Godfrey Rivers’ (the same artist) as he had moved to Hobart in 1915, and died in 1925. Initially it was a little misleading as the gallery curators had dropped the artist’s first initial from the information panel next to the painting. The gallery guard now knows a little more about the artist as he was good enough to Google a confirmation for me!


      • I will certainly add it to my list–and the tip about the jacaranda season–I’d definitely want to see that, though I’m highly doubtful I’ll be in Brisbane (or Australia, for that matter) anytime soon. I have an art-major friend who just got back from a semester abroad there, though, so I’ll have to see if she got to see the Queen Victoria Art Gallery. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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