September

Unknown artist and lithographer, Melbourne Cricket Ground 1864

Artist: Unknown Artist (attributed to François Cogné, 1829-1883)
Unknown lithographer

Title: Melbourne Cricket Ground

Date: 1864

Medium: lithograph and watercolour

Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne, Australia

EMu user since 2002

KE client since 1986

Melbourne Cricket Ground 1864This tinted lithograph is an early representation of the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). Constructed in 1853, the MCG remains a major Melbourne landmark today and received heritage status in 2005. The MCG was the site of the first test match between England and Australia in 1877 and in 1859 became the birthplace of Australian Rules Football (originally the Victoria Football League).

The ground first hosted an English cricket team on New Year’s Day 1862 to much fanfare. It boasted a new 6000 seat grandstand, coloured marquees ringed the oval and a carnival took place outside. More than 45,000 people attended during the four days of the match, the largest number of people ever to watch a cricket match anywhere in the world at the time.

On 1 January 1864, the second English team to visit Australia played against a Victorian side of 22 men in front of 15,000 people. The excitement of the match and the atmosphere of the ground are captured in this detailed illustration of the occasion, which shows men, women and children assembled at the perimeter of the ground, some climbing a sprawling gum tree for a better view. Bright tents can be seen bordering the oval and the impressive grandstand is just visible on the far side of the ground.

The three twisted old gum trees in the foreground dwarf the cricketers in the distance, giving the image a strong Australian flavour, whilst its subject matter celebrates the colony’s imperial ties. The fashionable attire of the crowd suggests the prosperity that swept through Melbourne in the wake of the 1850s Gold Rush. By the 1860s the young metropolis had grown to more than 125,000 settlers, only twenty five years since its foundation.

The print comes from the Melbourne Album, a book ‘containing a series of views of Melbourne & country districts’, which was published in 1864 by the lithographer and publisher Charles Troedel. In 1860, Hamburg-born Johannes Theodor Carl Trödel was recruited to a Melbourne paper bag manufacturing and printing business at the age of twenty five. He soon made the acquaintance of François Cogné, an artist and French teacher who had produced the Ballarat Album (1859) and proposed the idea of a Melbourne Album.

Cogné became the artist for twelve of the twenty four lithographs contained in the album and is possibly the artist of a further three anonymous images, which include this one of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The lithographer was probably Troedel or Cogné. From the publication of the first two lithographs in the series in a Melbourne newspaper, the Melbourne Album was a great success, enabling Troedel to leave paper bags behind and establish a Melbourne Album office in Melbourne’s main street.

Acknowledgements: The University of Melbourne Art Collection. Gift of the Russell & Mab Grimwade Bequest, 1973
Author: Stella Gray