Sketch illustrating Mr.John Sulman’s proposed Central avenue and remodelling of Circular Quay.


Robert Charles Given Coulter (1864 - 1956)

Rare early proposed design by Robert Coulter for Circular Quay,



S/N: NS-RWS-PPAP-030–232581
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Full Title:

Sketch illustrating Mr.John Sulman’s proposed Central avenue and remodelling of Circular Quay.




Robert Charles Given Coulter (1864 - 1956)


In good condition, with centre fold as issued, laid onto archival linen.


Process print

Image Size: 

x 262mm

Paper Size: 

x 320mm
Sketch illustrating Mr.John Sulman's proposed Central avenue and remodelling of Circular Quay. - Antique Print from 1909

Genuine antique



Rare early proposed design by Robert Coulter for Circular Quay,


Robert Charles Given Coulter was born in Parramatta, NSW in 1864, the youngest of nine children of Irish immigrant shopkeepers.  He joined the NSW Department of Public Works as a draughtsman in 1900, gained his architect’s registration in 1903 and worked in the Government Architect’s Branch until his retirement in 1930.  As early as 1901 Coulter painted a watercolour perspective of an imaginary capital city on the shores of Lake George.  Between 1903 and 1906 he accompanied the NSW Chief Architect Colonel W L Vernon on a series of special assignments to the sites under consideration for the new city.  He sketched panoramic views of the sites and his cycloramic view of the Canberra landscape was sent to all entrants in the international competition to design a new capital.  Coulter’s interest led him to submit his own design in collaboration with W Scott Griffiths and Charles Caswell.  It was placed fourth in the competition that was eventually won by American architects Walter Burley and Marion Mahony Griffin.  “Coulter spent a lot of time in the Canberra area,” said Clair Murray, conservator at the National Archives.  “He made five trips before he embarked on the national capital design competition.”  ‘Wear and tear and paint stains’  Mrs Weston’s cottage, Cooradigbee, from Charles Coulter’s sketchbook in the collection of the National Archives of Australia. PHOTO: Charles Coulter stayed at Mrs Weston’s cottage at Cooradigbee, near Wee Jasper, on his visits to the Canberra region. (From the collection of the National Archives of Australia.) The National Archives holds all the finalists’ entries as well as a linen-bound sketchbook that Coulter used in the field.  The binding has come undone and the pages are brittle around the edges.  “It’s showing all the signs of wear and tear and paint stains that you would normally expect from an artist,” Ms Murray explained.  The album includes sketches of the Canberra landscape around present-day Belconnen, watercolours of the Wee Jasper region, and pictures drawn and painted around Coulter’s home at Ryde in Sydney.  “Many of the drawings in the sketchbook are just the pencil sketches without watercolour painting over the top,” Ms Murray said.  “But you can see in his notes that he’s mentioned where mountains should be a pale blue or a dark blue.  “There’s certainly a charm to them and I think he’s obviously very familiar with the Australian landscape and particularly in this area of New South Wales and the ACT now.  “And I think his eye for the colour – the unique colours – in the New South Wales and Canberra landscapes really comes through in the watercolours.”  During his architectural career, Coulter was involved in major projects including design work for Taronga Park, the Australian Pavilion at the 1924 British Empire Exhibition, and Sydney’s underground railway system.  Though his dream for Canberra never eventuated, his job with the New South Wales government led to him working on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and he continued on the project in a private capacity after his retirement.  Charles Coulter died at Eastwood in 1956, at the age of 92.

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