Tooth & Co operated the Kent Brewery on Sydney's Broadway for almost 150 years from 1835. For most of this time Tooth & Co dominated the brewing and hotel industries of NSW, 'tying' over 600 pubs to sell only its products.
During the early 1930s, Tooth & Co was under pressure from the temperance movement and declining beer sales. Tom Watson, the company's new manager, decided to improve the public image of beer and pubs by creating what would now be called a 'corporate image'. Tooth & Co launched a consistent style of hotel architecture, interior decor and advertising. Glass advertising paintings became a feature of hotel exteriors from this time.
Between 1930 and 1969 Tooth & Co commissioned almost 6000 glass pub paintings. As advertisements, the paintings are unusual in production and unique in their graphic and functional character. They show innovation in the promotion and sale of goods and have no equivalents in their use of local, national and cultural imagery.
Pub paintings were not mass produced -- most were unique, one-off creations, designed to appeal to the clientele of a particular pub. This one was commissioned by Tooth & Co in 1952 for the Federal Hotel at Penrith. It is an excellent example of marketing techniques where local identity is established via the depiction of familiar scenery, in this case the rural setting of the Nepean River, and community pastimes. Presumably the representation of two men sculling was intended to convey an accessible form of leisure. Like most pub paintings it depicts healthy work and leisure rather than the product it sold.
To distance pub paintings from mainstream graphic design, Tooth & Co preferred to use artists with a fine art reputation and style. Tom Woodman (1901-1959) migrated to Australia from England in 1924. While struggling to establish himself as a portrait and landscape artist, Woodman worked as a commercial artist and theatre set painter in Melbourne before moving to Sydney. Between 1936 and his death Woodman worked almost exclusively for Tooth & Co, producing numerous pub paintings and other commissions. Unlike Henry Hanke and Alan Baker he did not create a wider reputation as an artist, but was responsible for Tooth's 'supper scene' paintings, which are among the best known Australian advertising images. The signwriting, painting transfer and framing were carried out by RB Coleman signs of Canterbury in Sydney. The painting was purchased by the Federal Hotel's publican in 1968.
The Powerhouse Museum has over 30 pub paintings in its collection. Most were donated by Tooth & Co after Melbourne's Carlton and United Brewery purchased Kent Brewery in 1983. This painting was purchased privately in 1991.