A place for people

A place for people
Find what you need using Trove's People Zone
11 September 2015

Conrad Martens

There is something special about a Martens painting. The dark crisp foregrounds are juxtaposed with the subtlety of his softer background strokes, the vibrant pastel tones of the sky and the sea, the one object in the distance that encourages the eye to focus on a single point in a vast expanse. Martens had a wonderful ability to find the perfect angle to illustrate a scene, wherever he plonked himself down he always seemed to pick the right construction and tone, creating moody atmospheres out of sparse landscapes.

Conrad Martens artwork View Harbour & [Governor Bourke's] Statue  1842

Conrad Martens (1801–1878), View Harbour & [Governor Bourke's] Statue  1842, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, trove.nla.gov.au/version/51576233

So what can we tell you about Martens?

Martens was born in England, the son of a German merchant and Conrad Martens artwork Conrad Martens on board the H.M.A.S Beagle 1834Englishwoman. He trained in landscape painting under Copley Fielding. Martens was well travelled, leaving England in 1832 to voyage to South America. While there he replaced another famous artist, Augustus Earle, on board the Beagle, which just happened to be carrying a young Naturalist, Charles Darwin. In 1835 he sailed to Australia, where he married, raised a family and painted some of the most iconic images of the colony of NSW. He came to that most noble of professions, librarian, later in life when he took a position with the NSW parliamentary library.

Conrad Martens (1801–1878), [Conrad Martens on board the H.M.A.S Beagle]  1834, Dixson Library, State Library of New South Wales, trove.nla.gov.au/version/51576590

How do we know all this? It’s in the Martens People Zone entry. There are two biographies, a list of related artists, friends and family members as well as a complete listing of resources relating to the artist. It’s a broad base of aggregated data designed to enable you, the researcher, to branch out and find the information from one location.

We have previously covered the way in which Trove’s People Zone can be used to access networking information on Australian content creators. The People Zone is also a biographical tool, databasing a large amount of information on artists, philosophers, leaders and quite often on everyday people. The information is stitched together from a range of sources so depends on what is available and useful in enhancing the discovery process.

Marcus Tullius Cicero

As well as locating bibliographical information, the People Zone is an excellent tool for clarifying your research on a particular individual, even those with no relation to Australia, like the Roman orator Cicero.

Instead of searching through Trove’s main interface for any occurrence of the name Cicero, Trove's People Zone focuses on the author’s resources. It’s like utilising Trove’s advanced search function for ‘creator’ but with richer results. Online copies tend to be preferred so if you are looking for digital object, this is the place to find them.

Screenshot of Marcus Tullius Cicero resources in Trove

The page also includes a list of pseudonyms in a variety of languages and pronunciations, which is very helpful if your teacher keeps banging on about the philosophical musings of the famous/infamous ‘Kikero’:

Screenshot of Marcus Tullius Cicero information in Trove

Records are added regularly from Libraries Australia, so if you’re looking for a work by an author or artist this is a great place to start, even if the information you have to begin with is a little fuzzy.


Recently I posted onto the Trove twitter account a beautiful image available on Trove.

Pelitjer artwork Shipping Amongst Icebergs,

Pelitjer (1800–1899), Shipping Amongst Icebergs, National Library of Australia, trove.nla.gov.au/version/31411541

The image is thought to have been by a sailor, 'Pelitjer' and that is all we know.

Seriously... Screenshot of Pelitjer resources in Trove

We checked with our counterparts in the Library’s Pictures and Manuscripts team and this was the absolute extent of the information they received on donation to the library:

Acquisition documentation for Pelitjer artwork

Records are important things unfortunately, and like most important things, you don’t appreciate having one until you need it. It seems the original merchants of the work didn’t feel the need to provide paperwork, or the paperwork got lost, or was eaten by a penguin. It’s a problem that happens all too often in the art world and is one that is quite obviously reflected in Trove’s People Zone.

Sometimes, despite harvesting information from a variety of sources, we just can’t cobble together the record that we would like for some amazing artists. So the work, like the ship within, is a lonesome object on a foggy sea. On these occasions it is important to remember that even if we are missing the record, we still have the object and that is truly extraordinary.

The People Zone is still a work in progress, but we are adding new collections into Trove all the time. With a little bit of luck we may even find what you are looking for, in the meantime have a look and if you do know something say something, because comments are always welcome.

Screenshot of Pelitjer catalogue record in Trove