Good Reading : April 2013
54 A second watercolour featured ‘a falcon perched on a rocky point beside a lake ... holding in one of its talons a dead robin’. Both works were on sale at Nicholson and Co., music publishers of George Street, Sydney, and, the reporter averred, Australian birds had ‘certainly never had a better delineator’. Along with these more violent, realistic works – Nature, red in tooth and claw – Cayley was also producing pretty, even sentimental, images. For a Mrs Meillon, he painted on silk a fairy-wren flying among flowers, which was displayed at the 1882 horticultural and flower show and fine art exhibition of the Clarence Pastoral and Agricultural Society (CPAS). From 1881 Cayley was on the Clarence River, at Grafton, Chatsworth and Yamba. The area was known for its majestic waterway, magnificent tall forests, mild climate and rich diversity of wildlife, especially waterbirds and fish. Perhaps significantly for an artist seeking commissions, there was also wealth from grazing, gold and from logging of ‘red gold’ (red cedar). Moreover, Cayley was distant from the competitive, established artists of Sydney. Cayley & Son: The life and art of Neville Henry Cayley & Neville William Cayley by Penny Olsen is published by the National Library of Australia, rrp $49.99.