Krakatoa signed 'W. Jenner.' and dated '1887' (lower right) oil on canvas 61.5 x 92cm (24 3/16 x 36 1/4in).
Provenance: A private collection, Australia.
Illustrated: G. Fry & B. Mahoney, Isaac Walter Jenner (Sydney, 1994), pg. 22 (cat. no. 52).
Jenner joined the Royal Navy at the age of eighteen, but he retired to Brighton, his birthplace, a decade later to become an artist. Unhappy with his prospects as a marine and genre painter there, he emigrated with his large family to Queensland in 1883. They sailed from Plymouth on 31 July on board RMS Roma.
By then Krakatoa had already begun erupting, although these eruptions really started to intensify on 24 August, culminating in the cataclysmic stage on 27 August. The main eruption was heard as far away as Alice Springs, 3,500km away, and is believed to be the loudest sound in recorded history. The tsunamis that accompanied each eruption, as well as the falling ash, resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people in the region, and the destruction of two thirds of the island of Krakatoa.
Those on board Roma witnessed first-hand the effects of Krakatoas eruption:
"On approaching the Strait of Sunda nasty weather was experienced with a strong adverse current, afterwards ascertained to have been caused by the tidal wave in the Strait on the 25th [August]. Was delayed by floating lava getting into the pipes of the circulating pump, and on the morning of the 6th September met the Dutch man-of-war Prince Heinrich, whose captain gave warning that the ordinary channel through the Strait had been blocked and gave instructions to sail another course. Proceeded slowly, and reached Batavia the same day." (The Brisbane Courier, 26 September 1883, as quoted in Fry & Mahoney)
Jenner painted this subject several times. Here, he depicts not only the floating debris, but also the brilliant sunset, which was a direct effect of the ash and sulphur dioxide released into the atmosphere by the eruptions. Jenner and his family arrived in Brisbane on 19 September, and he remained in Australia for the rest of his life.
The vessel that ultimately became Roma was built in 1873 by Charles Connell & Co. on the Clyde and launched with the name County of Sutherland. Ordered by R. & J. Craig of Glasgow as the first steamer in their celebrated fleet of hitherto sailing traders, she was registered at 2,617 tons gross (1,696 net) and measured 334 feet in length with a 38-foot beam. With a cruising speed of 10 knots and carrying an auxiliary barque rig on her three masts, she spent eight years with her original owners before being sold to the British India Steam Navigation Company in 1881. Re-rigged as a barquentine and renamed Roma, she left London on her first sailing to Brisbane, via Java, on 11th March 1881 and maintained this service for twelve years, until December 1893. Thereafter she was transferred onto the company's Indian coastal service and survived another five years before being scrapped at Bombay in 1898.