Born in London in 1801, Conrad Martens left England when Captain Blackwood of the Hyacinth offered him a three-year cruise to India. He later transferred to the Beagle at Montevideo, after hearing that its captain wished to engage an artist. Charles Darwin, who became his close friend during the two-year voyage, described Martens as ‘an excellent landscape painter’. The influence of Darwin provided Marten’s formerly romantic work with a scientific precision. When his engagement ended he shipped for Tahiti and Sydney, where he arrived in 1835. Martens married two years later and supported his wife and two children entirely from his painting until he became Parliamentary Librarian in 1863, a post he held until his death. Martens travelled extensively as a landscape and seascape painter, but Sydney Harbour and its environs remained his favourite source of inspiration. His large watercolours had much of the drama and poetry of Turner’s maritime paintings.