Archive for the 'maps' Category

24
Jun
18

Review: ‘DEEPER DARKER BRIGHTER’ at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 12th May – 1st July 2018

Artists: Pamela Bain and Carolyn Lewens
Curator: Stephanie Sacco

 

 

Installation view of gallery one at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

 

Installation view of gallery one at the exhibition Deeper Darker Brighter at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne
Photo: Christian Capurro

 

 

It is a great pleasure to be able to post on my friend Carolyn Lewens’ joint exhibition with Pamela Bains, DEEPER DARKER BRIGHTER at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, both Visiting Fellows at Swinburne University’s Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing.

I have known Carolyn since we were both studying photography at Brighton Tech under the tutelage of Peter Barker in 1989. Nearly 30 years later, we are both still making art and writing about art, which says a lot for our perseverance and perspicacity as both artists and human beings. There are not a lot of us left from those days, photographers who are still being creative, still following the path of enquiry with dedication and insight into the condition of (our) becoming.

In this latest iteration, an exhibition which investigates our place in the universe, Carolyn and Pamela offer a “creative response to an astrophysics program that is searching for the fastest explosions in the universe… an immersive and stimulating space wherein fresh awareness of the cosmos and science is mediated via aesthetic and conceptual means.” As the catalogue essay by Associate Professor Christopher Fluke observes, “Science and Art are both highly creative endeavours, that cannot succeed without research, experimentation, and an acceptance that some ideas will not work.” And so with this exhibition also. Some ideas work, some ideas do not.

The highlight for me in the first two galleries were the model telescopes, observatories and types of star made by research staff and postgraduate students in weekly workshops with the two artists. It was fascinating to see how modern astronomers see their own building blocks, fantastical human creations, architectural marvels made specifically to capture faint electromagnetic signals from the sky; and stars that can only be “captured” on photographic plates which record features invisible to the human eye. Akin to naive or “outsider” art (I hate that term but there is no better one at present to describe the work), these sculptures possess an essential presence in the “hands on” nature of their construction. Only in the darkened third gallery does the work of the two main artists coalesce, cosmogrify (I know that’s not a real word, but we are “out of this world”, as in cosmography, the branch of science which deals with the general features of the universe) into a satisfying whole. And what an out of this world gallery it is!

Pamela’s wondrous paintings, full of colour and paint splatters, transmogrify their earthly origins into music from the stars, while the paintings themselves are physically transformed and printed as digital photographs: in other words, there is a double transmogrification of concept and aesthetics going on here, moving from hand to universe and from analog to digital. As Fluke states, “The death event and the life giving properties shared between supernovae and our own physical outcome often reside in the subtext of Pam’s work, offering scope for the contemplation of ourselves as celestial entities.” These “creations” are illuminated by spotlights on one side of gallery three, and their multi-hued presence play off Carolyn’s blue cyanotype photogram images digitally printed on cotton rag on the other side of the long gallery – the exchange of constructed cosmos’ making for a truly immersive, quite moving experience.

Carolyn’s camera-less photograms use cyanotype photography, a process invented by astronomer Sir John Herschel in the early 1840s, so this process is entirely appropriate for her investigation into the “metaphors of light and the mysteries of shadows.” As Fluke notes, “The creations that emerge are a direct response to the presence or absence of light, generating a shadowy imprint of more complexity than we can perceive. Links to photosynthesis via the cyanotype process mean her work is more about life than death.” Carolyn uses objects and materials which are often dense – folded and layered – which she then over exposes in order to get detail in some areas of the image. The resultant cyanotypes are then digital remastered (but not manipulated) in Photoshop, so that the resultant prints do not loose that beautiful blue that is the signature of the cyanotype process. Here again, transmogrification becomes a happening concept – an idea, a concept uses photosynthesis, the light of the sun, to create images in an early photographic process which are then scientifically remastered into digital photographs.

In both artists work, there is evidence of the ineffable, the unknowable, which is what makes this gallery so special. These works have been created out of the explosions of human imagination and creativity (like little big bangs) after observing light from stars millions of miles away, light that may no longer exist since it takes millions of years to reach us here on Earth. The light that these artists and astronomers observe may no longer exist, it is just an after image of a physical presence that may be long gone. To then create these universal emanations as intimations of the retina of the eye, being underwater, in the womb, or being a plant (think the tactile qualities of Karl Blossfeldt’s photographs); or cells of the brain and spermatozoa, is a special thing. The nexus between the works and the universe make these associations quite breathtaking.

Marcus

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Many thankx to Pamela Bain, Carolyn Lewens and Town Hall Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Conveying the wonder of science through art, Pamela Bain and Carolyn Lewens explore the universe with Swinburne University’s Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, resulting in an odyssey of aesthetic and sensory experiences.

DEEPER DARKER BRIGHTER is a creative response to an astrophysics program that is searching for the fastest explosions in the universe. The artists, present for real-time space observations, were stimulated by bombardments of astronomical imagery, data and technology that inspired these new bodies of work. The exhibition offers an immersive and stimulating space wherein fresh awareness of the cosmos and science is mediated via aesthetic and conceptual means.

 

Carolyn Lewens in front of her work 'In the Photic Zone' 2018

 

Carolyn Lewens in front of her work In the Photic Zone 2017 at the opening of the exhibition
Photo: ImagePlay

 

 

Pamela Bain in front of her work Electric Cosmic 2018 at the opening of the exhibition
Photo: ImagePlay

 

 

THG Artist Interview: Carolyn Lewens & Pamela Bain – DEEPER DARKER BRIGHTER, 12 May – 1 July 2018

 

Installation view of gallery one at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

Installation view of gallery one at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

Installation view of gallery one at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

 

Installation views of gallery one at the exhibition Deeper Darker Brighter at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne
Photos: Christian Capurro

 

 

Installation view of Pamela Bain’s work Candidate Light Collective 2018 (watercolour on cotton rag)
Photo: ImagePlay

 

Installation view of gallery two at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

Installation view of gallery two at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

Installation view of gallery two at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

 

Installation views of gallery two at the exhibition Deeper Darker Brighter at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne
Photos: Christian Capurro

 

 

Augmented visions: the art of the dynamic universe

Associate Professor Christopher Fluke

.
The consistency of the night sky was important for the development of astronomy: a science of observation, record-keeping and prediction. Across human lifetimes, the stars maintained their positions with respect to an imagined celestial sphere. The planets – literally wandering stars – moved with respect to the fixed stars in their own regular cycles.

Much rarer, and sometimes a cause for alarm, were the unexpected events – an eclipse of the Sun or the sudden appearance of a new star in the immutable heavens. On 4 July 1054, Chinese astronomers recorded a bright light appearing in the constellation Taurus. So luminous that it was visible in the daylight for 20 days, it faded from view over the next two years. The cause of this transient celestial event was the explosion of a star 6500 light years away: a supernova event in our own Galaxy. Today, astronomers search the sky for other exploding stars – but in galaxies far beyond our own. Sophisticated telescopes capture the brief yet spectacular death throes of some of the biggest stars, revealing valuable information about the origin and evolution of all stars. The spark of inspiration for artists Pamela Bain and Carolyn Lewens was the Deeper Wider Faster project: a systematic search for short-lived, transient explosions. Led by Swinburne University of Technology’s Associate Professor Jeff Cooke and PhD student Igor Andreoni, Deeper Wider Faster requires the coordination of multiple observatories distributed around the Earth, all watching the same regions of the sky, waiting to catch a cosmic cataclysm.

While signalling the death of a star, a supernova is also a source of new life. At the heart of the explosion, nuclear processes create gold, silver, and other elements. Billions of years ago, supernovae created the elemental mixture that would collapse and coalesce into our Solar System: the raw materials for life. As Carl Sagan noted “we are made of star-stuff”.

The mutual composition shared by humans and the Universe has influenced Pamela’s work for some time. Her paintings capture the essence of the explosion and the aftermath. The interplay between light and dark and the shadowy in between also reveals a human presence via daubs of colour, paint splatters and brushstrokes amalgamating the artist with the Universe. While technical processes are later integrated, evidence of an organic origin remain. The death event and the life giving properties shared between supernovae and our own physical outcome often reside in the subtext of Pam’s work, offering scope for the contemplation of ourselves as celestial entities.

Many of the great astronomers of the Renaissance were also great artists, perhaps none more so than Galileo Galilei. Although not the first to draw the Moon through a telescope, Galileo’s sketches of the craters and shadows of the Moon were an essential step in overturning the conception that the Moon was a perfect object. Through drawing and illustration, astronomers could share, discuss and debate what was seen via the augmentation of lenses and mirrors. As telescopes grew in size, the increased level of detail they revealed challenged the skills of many astronomers. The quality of the interpretation was only as good as the talents of the astronomer-artist. During the 19th century, a move from subjectivity to objectivity in astronomical imaging took place. While not without their own challenges, photographic plates could record features invisible to the human eye, and the era of the astronomer-artist came to an end. The longer the exposure, the DEEPER and DARKER elements of the Universe could be seen.

The cyanotype photography used by Carolyn was invented by astronomer Sir John Herschel in the early 1840s. While Herschel created the process to make blueprint copies of his notes, Carolyn’s camera-less photograms allow her to “investigate the metaphors of light and the mysteries of shadows.”

Physical engagement with processes of light and materiality is central to Carolyn’s work. The creations that emerge are a direct response to the presence or absence of light, generating a shadowy imprint of more complexity than we can perceive. Links to photosynthesis via the cyanotype process mean her work is more about life than death. There has always been a close connection between art and astronomy. Depictions of the night sky, accompanied by stories of the origin of the Universe, appear throughout human history. Complex motions of the celestial objects were often encoded in architecture. In Peru, the Thirteen Towers of Chankillo encode the Sun’s motion on the horizon throughout the year.

Modern astronomers build architectural marvels to capture faint electromagnetic signals from the sky. Large white domes huddle together on the tops of mountains far from the light pollution of cities, holding mirrors with diameters measured in metres. Elsewhere, an enormous parabolic dish sits incongruously in the Australian countryside, surrounded by sheep and the occasional poisonous snake.

The orchestration of observatories at the heart of Deeper Wider Faster is depicted in an animation in the Gallery, conceived by Pamela and Carolyn, and animated by James Josephides. Connections are made between geographical locations of observatories and their place in the electromagnetic spectrum. Radio waves, X-rays, infrared, ultraviolet and visible light are all the same phenomena. Yet each holds its own secret about the transient, dynamic Universe.

In a return to astronomy’s artistic roots, Pamela and Carolyn led weekly workshops with research staff and postgraduate students from Swinburne’s Centre for Astrophysics & Supercomputing. The opportunity to make model telescopes with Carolyn or learn to paint supernova with Pamela was taken up enthusiastically. Science and Art are both highly creative endeavours, that cannot succeed without research, experimentation, and an acceptance that some ideas will not work. The creative outputs of Swinburne’s astronomers are shown alongside the primary works of the exhibition.

Science and Art are both iterative experiences – it can be hard to say when either has come to an end. DEEPER DARKER BRIGHTER is an aesthetic and sensory response by Pamela Bain and Carolyn Lewens to Deeper Wider Faster. It implores us to reconsider the nature of the Universe, the light and the dark, and the augmented visions that astronomers use to capture the art of the dynamic Universe. This is the era of transient astronomy: the heavens are immutable no more.

.
Associate Professor Christopher Fluke
is a researcher with Swinburne’s Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, and Director of Swinburne’s Advanced Visualisation Laboratory.

 

Installation view of gallery three at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

Installation view of gallery three at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

Installation view of gallery three at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

Installation view of gallery three at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

Installation view of gallery three at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

Installation view of gallery three at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

Installation view of gallery three at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

Installation view of gallery three at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

 

Installation views of gallery three at the exhibition Deeper Darker Brighter at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne
Photos: Christian Capurro

 

Pamela Bain. 'Electric Cosmos' 2018

 

Pamela Bain
Electric Cosmos
2018
From the Death and Creation series
Painting remastered onto archival digital print on cotton rag
140 x 186 cm
© image courtesy of the artist

 

Pamela Bain. 'Explosion' 2018

 

Pamela Bain
Explosion
2018
From the Death and Creation series
Painting remastered onto archival digital print on cotton rag
© image courtesy of the artist

 

Pamela Bain. 'Nebula' 2018

 

Pamela Bain
Nebula
2018
From the Death and Creation series
Painting remastered onto archival digital print on cotton rag
© image courtesy of the artist

 

Pamela Bain. 'Through A Portal Lightly' 2018

 

Pamela Bain
Through A Portal Lightly
2018
From the Death and Creation series
Painting remastered onto archival digital print on cotton rag
© image courtesy of the artist

 

Opening of the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

 

At the opening of the exhibition Deeper Darker Brighter at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne
Photo: ImagePlay

 

Carolyn Lewens. 'Light Phenomenon 2' 2017

 

Carolyn Lewens
Light Phenomenon 2
2017
Dimensions variable
Unique state cyanotype photogram image digitally remastered print on cotton rag
© image courtesy of the artist

 

Carolyn Lewens. 'Fast Burst' 2017

 

Carolyn Lewens
Fast Burst
2017
Dimensions variable
Unique state cyanotype photogram image digitally remastered print on cotton rag
© image courtesy of the artist

 

Carolyn Lewens. 'Filamentous' 2017

 

Carolyn Lewens
Filamentous
2017
Dimensions variable
Unique state cyanotype photogram image digitally remastered print on cotton rag
© image courtesy of the artist

 

Carolyn Lewens. 'Naked Retina 8' 2017

 

Carolyn Lewens
Naked Retina 8
2017
Dimensions variable
Unique state cyanotype photogram image digitally remastered print on cotton rag
© image courtesy of the artist

 

Carolyn Lewens. 'Naked Retina 9' 2017

 

Carolyn Lewens
Naked Retina 9
2017
Dimensions variable
Unique state cyanotype photogram image digitally remastered print on cotton rag
© image courtesy of the artist

 

Carolyn Lewens. 'Spiralling orbits' 2017

 

Carolyn Lewens
Spiralling orbits
2017
Dimensions variable
Unique state cyanotype photogram image digitally remastered print on cotton rag
© image courtesy of the artist

 

Carolyn Lewens. 'Light Remnants' 2017

 

Carolyn Lewens
Light Remnants
2017
Dimensions variable
Unique state cyanotype photogram image digitally remastered print on cotton rag
© image courtesy of the artist

 

Carolyn Lewens. 'In the Photic Zone' 2013-2018

 

Carolyn Lewens
In the Photic Zone
2013-18
Dimensions variable
Unique state cyanotype photogram image digitally remastered print on cotton rag
© image courtesy of the artist

 

 

Town Hall Gallery
Hawthorn Arts Centre
360 Burwood Road,
Hawthorn VIC 3122
Phone: +61 3 9278 4770

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Friday 10am-5pm
Saturday and Sunday 11am-4pm
Closed on Mondays and public holidays

Town Hall Gallery website

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15
Jun
18

Exhibition: ‘Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861’ at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne Part 1

Exhibition dates: 15th March – 15th July 2018

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Colony: Frontier Wars (15 March – 2 September 2018) which presents a powerful response to colonisation through a range of historical and contemporary works by Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists dating from pre-contact times to present day.

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers should be aware that this posting contains images and names of people who may have since passed away.

 

 

Installation view of the entrance to the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the entrance to the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the entrance to the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the entrance to the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne featuring 19th century Aboriginal shields from the NGV Collection
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

This is an ambitious double exhibition from the National Gallery of Victoria: historical with a contemporary response. I didn’t have time to take installation photographs of the contemporary exhibition on Level 3 during the media call, concentrating instead on Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861, the historical exhibition on the ground floor of NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne.

A review, along with the installation photographs of the many early photographs present in the exhibition, will be presented in Part 2 of the posting.

Suffice to say that his exhibition should not be missed by any Australian.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All installation photographs © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria.

 

 

Colonial Frontier Massacres in Eastern Australia 1788-1872

Colonial Frontier Massacres in Eastern Australia 1788-1872 from The Centre for 21st Century Humanities, The University of Newcastle

 

Colonial Frontier Massacres in Eastern Australia 1788-1872 from The Centre for 21st Century Humanities, The University of Newcastle

 

Unknown. 'Broad shield' (early 19th century-mid 19th century) 

 

Unknown
Broad shield (early 19th century-mid 19th century)
earth pigments on wood, cane, pipeclay
91.3 x 19.5 x 9.5 cm irreg.
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 2011

 

 

Shields

Aboriginal people have occupied the Australian continent for more than 65,000 years. The arrival and settlement of Europeans, from 1788, affected them profoundly. This proud massing of nineteenth-century shields at the entrance to this exhibition serves as both a reminder of the resilience of Aboriginal people in the face of colonisation, and a representation of the first chapter in Australian art.

The painted and incised designs on the shields are signifiers of the identities and places of these artists whose names, language groups and precise locations were not recorded by European collectors.

There are two kinds of shields traditional to south-east Australia. The first type is narrow and fashioned from a single piece of hardwood, designed to block the forceful blows of clubs, usually in individual combat, and is called a parrying shield. The second is broad and thin with a convex outer face and concave under-surface, and is fashioned from the outer bark or cambium. It is known as a broad or spear shield. This type of shield deflects sharply barbed spears thrown in general fights and also has a ceremonial purpose. These precious cultural objects are of inestimable value to Aboriginal people today. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Melchisédec Thévenot (cartographer, French c. 1620-1692) New Holland, revealed 1644: Terra Australis, discovered 1644 (Hollandia Nova detecta 1644: Terre Australe decouverte l'an 1644)

 

Melchisédec Thévenot (cartographer, French c. 1620-1692)
New Holland, revealed 1644: Terra Australis, discovered 1644 (Hollandia Nova detecta 1644: Terre Australe decouverte l’an 1644)
1644
Ink on paper
50.0 x 37.0 cm
Published in De l’imprimerie de Iaqves Langlois, 1663
National Library of Australia, Canberra
Photo: National Library of Australia

 

 

Included in Melchisédec Thévenot’s travel account of 1663, this is the first published large-scale map of Australia. It shows how much of the continent’s coastline was known to Europeans 100 years before James Cook’s Pacific voyages, which would substantially complete European cartographic knowledge about both Australia and New Zealand. Thévenot’s map was published when French colonial aspirations were expanding and it divides the continent along the 135-degree meridian, which marked the western limit of Spain’s imperial claim in the South Pacific. Designating the eastern, undescribed expanse in French (‘Terre Australe’), the map signals French interest in the land east of New Holland. (Exhibition text)

 

 

European exploration before 1770

The notion that James Cook ‘discovered’ Australia denies the presence of Aboriginal people for 65,000 years and overlooks other European and regional visitors to the Australian coast. The existence of a great southern land, Terra Australis, had long exercised Europeans’ imaginings about the world and began to take a more realistic shape on maps in the early seventeenth century because of maritime exploration. The earliest documented European contact was that of Willem Janszoon and his crew aboard the Dutch ship Duyken, which landed on the west coast of Cape York Peninsula in 1606.

Subsequently, a number of navigators on Dutch and English ships charted the west coast of the continent. Dutch explorer and trader Abel Tasman mapped the west and southern coasts of Van Diemen’s Land in 1642. Two years later, on his second voyage, he reached the north and west coast of Australia, which he named New Holland. The British privateer William Dampier reached the west coast in 1688, and trade between Aboriginal people and the Makassans (from modern-day Indonesia) is documented from around 1720. The Dutch charts of the western coast of Australia were known to the British for more than a century before Cook set sail on his first Pacific voyage. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Unknown 'Beardman jug, from the wreck site of Vergulde Draeck' before 1656

 

Unknown
Beardman jug, from the wreck site of Vergulde Draeck
before 1656
Earthenware Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney
Transferred from Australian Netherlands Committee on Old Dutch Shipwrecks, 1991
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Thirty years after the Batavia was wrecked off the Australian west coast, the VOC ship Vergulde Draeck was destroyed on a reef 100 kilometres north of current-day Perth. More than 300 years later, in 1963, the submerged wreck was discovered by fisherman, and a large quantity of gold and silver bullion and German beardman or bellarmine jugs retrieved from within. The latter name is popularly associated with late sixteenth- to early seventeenth-century cardinal Robert Bellarmine, an opponent of Protestantism who was known for his fierce anti-alcohol stance. These potbellied, anthropomorphic jugs were certainly intended to ridicule him; they were regularly used to store wine. (Exhibition text)

 

Unknown 'Beardman jug, from the wreck site of Vergulde Draeck' before 1656

 

Unknown
Beardman jug, from the wreck site of Vergulde Draeck
before 1656
Earthenware Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney
Transferred from Australian Netherlands Committee on Old Dutch Shipwrecks, 1991
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Isaac Gilsemans (cartographer) 'Coastal profiles of Van Diemen's Land, 4-5 December 1642'

 

Isaac Gilsemans (cartographer)
Coastal profiles of Van Diemen’s Land, 4-5 December 1642
1642
Bound into Extract from the Journal of the Skipper Commander Abel Janssen Tasman kept by himself in discovering the unknown Southland 1642-43, compiled c. 1643-47
Pen and ink
23.5 x 37.6 cm
State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Acquired from Martinus Nijhoff, 1926

 

Victor Victorszoon (draughtsman) Johannes van Keulen II. 'Amsterdam Island, St Paul Island, Black swans near Rottnest Island' c. 1724-26

 

Victor Victorszoon (draughtsman)
Johannes van Keulen II
Amsterdam Island, St Paul Island, Black swans near Rottnest Island
c. 1724-26
Plate from Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indien (The Old and New East Indies) by François Valentijn, vol. 3, part 2, published by Johannes von Braam and Gerard Onder de Linden, Dordrect and Amsterdam, 1724–26
Engraving
30.4 x 18.5 cm (plate), 34.7 x 22.1 cm (sheet)
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
J.C. Earl Bequest Fund 2011

 

William Ellis. 'View of Adventure Bay, Van Diemen's Land, New Holland' 1777

 

William Ellis (England 1751 – Belgium 1785, Australia 1777)
View of Adventure Bay, Van Diemen’s Land, New Holland
1777
Watercolour and brush and ink
20.0 x 47.3 cm
National Library of Australia, Canberra

 

 

William Ellis served as surgeon’s mate on Cook’s Third Voyage and doubled his duties as unofficial natural history draughtsman, producing numerous sketches and watercolours. In these two watercolours he documents the Discovery and the Resolution harboured in the calm waters of Adventure Bay on Bruny Island, and the distinctive geological features of Fluted Cape at the southern end of the bay. (Exhibition text)

 

William Bradley. 'Botany Bay. Sirius & Convoy going in: Supply & Agents Division in the Bay. 21 Janry 1788'

 

William Bradley (England c. 1757 – France 1833, Australia 1788-91)
Botany Bay. Sirius & Convoy going in: Supply & Agents Division in the Bay. 21 Janry 1788
opposite p. 56 in his A Voyage to New South Wales 1786-92, compiled 1802
Watercolour and pen and ink
19.0 x 24.3 cm (sheet)
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney

 

 

William Bradley sailed with the First Fleet as first lieutenant on board HMS Sirius and remained in the colony until 1792. Like many officers he kept a journal, illustrating key events. This work shows the First Fleet’s second contingent of ships sailing in to Botany Bay to join the advance party already anchored there. Signed and dated 21 January 1788, this and other Bradley images are significant eyewitness accounts of history in the making. Bradley compiled this journal after 1802, and may have made copies of earlier drawings. (Exhibition text)

 

 

Landing and settlement at Sydney Cove 1788

Although Botany Bay had been chosen as the site for the establishment of the new penal colony, within days of arriving in January 1788, Governor Arthur Phillip relocated the First Fleet north to Sydney Cove in Port Jackson. Here the ships could be safely anchored and a freshwater stream provided a crucial water supply around which the first rudimentary settlement of tents, huts and the governor’s residence was established. The early years were extremely difficult and the colony faced starvation as the crops failed due to the lack of skilled farmers, unfamiliar climate and poor soil. But as farming pushed into more arable lands during the 1790s, settlement expanded and new townships were laid out, competing for resources with the Aboriginal inhabitants and dispossessing them of their lands.

No official artists accompanied the First Fleet and the colony’s earliest works of art were drawings made by officers trained in draughtsmanship and convicts with artistic skills. These drawings largely comprised ethnographic records of local people, natural history images of flora and fauna, charts and coastal views of the harbour’s topography. By the early years of the nineteenth century views of Sydney emphasised its growth, as urban development symbolised for the colonists the progress of Empire. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with in the bottom image at right, Sketch and description of the settlement at Sydney Cove, Port Jackson in the County of Cumberland 1788; and second right top, View of the entrance into Port Jackson taken from a boat lying under the North Head c. 1790
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Francis Fowkes (draughtsman) Samuel John Neele (etcher) 'Sketch and description of the settlement at Sydney Cove Port Jackson in the County of Cumberland' 1788

 

Francis Fowkes (draughtsman)
Samuel John Neele (etcher)
Sketch and description of the settlement at Sydney Cove Port Jackson in the County of Cumberland
1788
Hand-coloured etching and engraving published by R. Cribb, London, 24 July 1789
19.6 x 31.7 cm (image), 26.8 x 38.7 cm (sheet)
National Library of Australia, Canberra

 

 

Dated 16 April 1788, this extremely rare map (there are only three known copies) was drawn by former navy midshipman and convict, Francis Fowkes, some three months after the First Fleet arrived in New South Wales. Published in London in July 1789, it presents a schematised view of the infant settlement with buildings, tents, sawpits, workshops, storehouses, quarries and gardens identified in the key. The eleven ships of the First Fleet are shown at anchor and the Governor’s ‘mansion’ is clearly identified on the eastern side of the cove. (Exhibition text)

 

Port Jackson Painter. 'View of the entrance into Port Jackson taken from a boat lying under the North Head' c. 1790

 

Port Jackson Painter
View of the entrance into Port Jackson taken from a boat lying under the North Head
c. 1790
Watercolour
11.7 x 24.2 cm
Rex Nan Kivell Collection: National Library of Australia and National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with at left lower, George Tobin’s Native Hut (or Wigwam) of Adventure Bay, Van Diemans [Diemen’s] Land 1792 folio 16 in his Sketches on H.M.S. Providence; including some sketches from later voyages on Thetis and Princess Charlotte album 1791-1831 watercolour. State Library of New South Wales, Sydney Acquired from Truslove and Hanson, in 1915 – in the image below at bottom left.
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with at bottom centre, Sarah Stone’s Shells 1781
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Sarah Stone. 'Shells' 1781

 

Sarah Stone
Shells
1781
Watercolour over black pencil
43.0 x 58.0 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 2016

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with at left, View of the town of Sydney in the colony of New South Wales c. 1799; and second left of the row of four, Juan Ravenet’s Convicts in New Holland (Convictos en la Nueva Olanda) and English in New Holland (Ingleses en la Nueva Olanda) 1789-94 (see below)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Unknown artist. 'View of the town of Sydney in the colony of New South Wales' c. 1799

 

Unknown artist (England)
Thomas Watling (after)
View of the town of Sydney in the colony of New South Wales
c. 1799
Oil on canvas
65.0 x 133.0 cm
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Gift of M.J.M. Carter AO through the Art Gallery of South Australia Foundation in recognition of the abilities of James Bennett to promote public awareness and appreciation of Asian art and culture 2015
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program

 

 

Transportation to New South Wales

The favourable accounts of New South Wales by James Cook and Joseph Banks were influential in the government’s selection of Botany Bay as the site for a new penal colony. Britain’s loss of the American colonies in 1783 ended convict transportation across the Atlantic and increased the pressure for new solutions to the rising rates of crime and incarceration experienced in late eighteenth-century Britain. The founding of a penal settlement in New South Wales was perceived not only as providing a solution to domestic, social and political problems but also as holding the key to territorial expansion in the South Pacific and the promotion of imperial trade.

The lengthy preparation for the First Fleet raised huge public interest. For most people at that time it was a journey of unimaginable length to a place as remote and unknown as the moon. The eleven ships comprising the First Fleet left Portsmouth in May 1787 with more than 1300 men, women and children on board. Although most were British, there were also African, American and French convicts. After a voyage of eight months the First Fleet arrived in Botany Bay in January 1788. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Unknown. 'Transported for sedition' 1793 (installation view)

 

Unknown
Transported for sedition (installation view)
1793
Woodcut on linen
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

This printed linen handkerchief shows five men popularly known as the ‘Scottish martyrs’. In 1794 they were sentenced to transportation to New South Wales for terms of up to fourteen years for the crime of sedition – inciting rebellion against the government of Britain. When published, or printed on paper, images such as this were also considered seditious and censored. Printed handkerchiefs, however, were not subjected to the same sanctions. They had the added advantage of being easily concealed and, when safe to do so, were displayed to show the owner’s political affiliation. (Exhibition text)

 

Juan Ravenet. 'Convicts in New Holland (Convictos en la Nueva Olanda)' 1789-94

 

Juan Ravenet (Italy 1766 – Spain c. 1821)
Convicts in New Holland (Convictos en la Nueva Olanda)
1789-94
From an album of drawings made on the Spanish Scientific Expedition to Australia and the Pacific in the ships Descubierta and Atrevida under the command of Alessandro Malaspina, 1789-94
Brush and ink and wash
19.5 x 12.5 cm
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney

 

Juan Ravenet. 'English in New Holland (Ingleses en la Nueva Olanda)' 1789-94

 

Juan Ravenet (Italy 1766 – Spain c. 1821)
English in New Holland (Ingleses en la Nueva Olanda)
1789-94
From an album of drawings made on the Spanish Scientific Expedition to Australia and the Pacific in the ships Descubierta and Atrevida under the command of Alessandro Malaspina, 1789-94
Brush and ink and wash
19.5 x 12.5 cm
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney

 

 

Extremely few realistic depictions of convicts in Australia are known. These rare portraits, showing garments worn by male and female convicts and by officials, were painted by one of two artists on board the Spanish expedition (1789-94), led by Alessandro Malaspina, that visited Sydney in 1793. A major scientific expedition, like Cook’s and La Pérouse’s, the visit also had political implications, as Sydney formed a strategic British base in the Pacific that could threaten Spanish interests in the Americas and Philippines. (Exhibition text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with at left, Half-length portrait of Gna-na-gna-na c. 1790
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Port Jackson Painter. 'Half-length portrait of Gna-na-gna-na' c. 1790

 

Port Jackson Painter
Half-length portrait of Gna-na-gna-na
c. 1790
Gouache
29.4 x 24.0 cm
National Library of Australia, Canberra
Rex Nan Kivell Collection

 

 

Indigenous representation

In the early years of settlement there was little contact with the Eora, the Traditional Owners of the area around Sydney Cove, who actively avoided the new arrivals, but as the colony grew, communication, and occasionally friendships, developed. The English had little understanding of the deep relationship between the Eora and their lands, and their careful management of resources, which were soon overstretched by the colonists. Famine and introduced diseases also devastated numerous communities. As the nineteenth century progressed, traditional life along the east coast of Australia was irrevocably changed.

Early images of Aboriginal people reflect the curiosity of the early colonists. Studies of the material culture of Indigenous people, and attempts to record everyday activities ranging from ceremonial gatherings to fishing and hunting, reveal the Europeans’ desire to understand Aboriginal people and culture through ethnographic documentation. Importantly, a number of these portraits include the names of the people depicted – they are not generic representations. The European artists who made these images were fascinated by the appearance of the individuals they encountered, sometimes producing finely detailed drawings and watercolours showing the particulars of hairstyles, ornamentation and scarification. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Piron and Copia. 'Natives of Cape Diemen fishing (Pêche des sauvages du Cap de Diemen)' 1800

 

Jean Piron (draughtsman, Belgium 1767/1771 – south-east Asia after 1795)
Jacques Louis Copia (engraver, Germany 1764-99)
Natives of Cape Diemen fishing (Pêche des sauvages du Cap de Diemen)
1800
Plate 4 from the Atlas pour servir à relation du Voyage à la Recherche de La Pérouse (Atlas of the voyage in search of La Pérouse), by J-J. H. de Labillardière, published by Chez Dabo, Paris 1817
Etching and engraving
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2017

 

 

Jean Piron was an artist trained in the Neoclassical tradition who accompanied the expedition led by Admiral Joseph-Antoine Raymond Bruni D’Entrecasteaux during 1791-94. His drawings from this expedition are the earliest surviving visual observations of the Aboriginal people of Tasmania by French explorers. Prints, engraved after his death, show Piron’s idealised vision of Tasmanian Aboriginal people living in tranquil harmony with their surroundings. However, apart from the spear-throwing man and the accurately depicted fibre and kelp baskets, there is little to indicate Tasmania in the classicised representation of the landscape and its people. (Exhibition text)

 

Samuel John Neele (etcher, England 1758-1825) 'Pimbloy [Pemuluwuy], native of New Holland in a canoe of that country' 1804

 

Unknown artist (draughtsman, active in England early 19th century)
Samuel John Neele (etcher, England 1758-1825)
Pimbloy [Pemuluwuy], native of New Holland in a canoe of that country
1804
Following p. 170 in The Narrative of a Voyage of Discovery in his Majesty’s vessel the Lady Nelson by James Grant, published by Thomas Egerton, London, 1803
Etching
Special Collections, Deakin University, Melbourne

 

 

Pemuluwuy was an important man and warrior of the Eora nation. In December 1790 he gained notoriety after spearing, and killing, Governor Phillip’s gamekeeper. He then went on to lead raids on many of the settlements in the Sydney area, including Parramatta. David Collins, the lieutenant-governor, acknowledged that he was ‘a most active enemy’; however, he also noted that Pemuluwuy’s attacks were precipitated by the vicious ‘misconduct’ of the colonisers. In 1801 Governor King issued a proclamation that Indigenous people could be shot on sight, and placed a bounty on Pemuluwuy. He was murdered by a settler in 1802 and his body was subsequently desecrated. (Exhibition text)

 

John Heaviside Clark (draughtsman Scotland 1770-1863, England 1801-32) Matthew Dubourg (engraver active in England 1786-1838) 'Climbing trees' 1813 (installation view)

 

John Heaviside Clark (draughtsman Scotland 1770-1863, England 1801-32)
Matthew Dubourg (engraver active in England 1786-1838)
Climbing trees (installation view)
Plate 4 from Field Sports &c. &c. of the Native Inhabitants of New South Wales, published by Edward Orme, London
1813
Hand-coloured aquatint
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gurnett-Smith Bequest, 1999
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Field Sports &c. &c. of the Native Inhabitants of New South Wales was the first publication to focus on the representation of Indigenous Australian life. The set of ten colour aquatints was part of a much larger series called Foreign Field Sports, which depicted sporting and hunting pursuits from around the world. These prints contain accurate details, such as the spearthrower, however, the plants and animals are inaccurate and were clearly unfamiliar to the London artists who made them, neither of whom came to Australia. (Exhibition text)

 

John Heaviside Clark (draughtsman Scotland 1770-1863, England 1801-32) Matthew Dubourg (engraver active in England 1786-1838) 'Warriors of New S. Wales' 1813 (installation view)

 

John Heaviside Clark (draughtsman Scotland 1770-1863, England 1801-32)
Matthew Dubourg (engraver active in England 1786-1838)
Warriors of New S. Wales (installation view)
Plate 6 from Field Sports &c. &c. of the Native Inhabitants of New South Wales, published by Edward Orme, London
1813
Hand-coloured aquatint
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gurnett-Smith Bequest, 1999
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

The Flinders and Baudin expeditions

Between 1801 and 1804, skilled British navigator Matthew Flinders and his crew aboard the Investigator circumnavigated Australia, funded by the Royal Society and its president Sir Joseph Banks. Their directive was to chart the final stretch of southern coastline that remained unknown on European maps, and learn more about the continent’s extraordinary natural history. A similar French expedition led by Nicolas Baudin on the Géographe and the Naturaliste had already commenced (1800-04). Sent by the Marine Ministry and Napoleon Bonaparte, the expedition sought to map and explore the unfamiliar land and its inhabitants; however, the British feared that it was a reconnaissance mission with a view to founding a French base in New Holland or Van Diemen’s Land.

The most dazzling record of both voyages’ scientific achievement was produced by the artists on board. Travelling with Baudin on the Géographe was Charles-Alexandre Lesueur, who delineated thousands of animal specimens, and Nicolas-Martin Petit, who represented the Aboriginal people encountered on the voyage. Their drawings were the basis for the engravings published in the official account of the expedition, Voyage of Discovery to the Southern Lands (1807–11). Aboard the Investigator was the mature natural history artist Ferdinand Bauer and the talented young landscape painter William Westall. (Text from the NGV website)

 

New Holland: New South Wales. View of the southern part of the town of Sydney

 

Charles-Alexandre Lesueur (draughtsman, France 1778-1846)
Victor Pillement (engraver, France 1767-1814)
Marie-Alexandre Duparc (engraver, active in France 18th century – 19th century)
New Holland: New South Wales. View of the southern part of the town of Sydney (Nouvelle-Hollande: Nouvelle Galles du Sud. Vue de la partie meridionale de la Ville de Sydney)
Plate 38 from Voyage de Découvertes aux Terres Australes (Voyage of Discovery to the Southern Lands) atlas, by François Peron and Louis de Freycinet, published by L’Imprimerie Impèriale, Paris, 1807-16
Etching and engraving
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented through the NGV Foundation by John Baird, Member, 2005

 

 

Following their lengthy voyage and exploration of the south-east coastline of Australia, the Géographe and Naturaliste struggled into Port Jackson in June 1802. The French crew remained there for five months to recover and repair their ships. The surveying and scientific parties continued with their work, to some British suspicion, and Charles-Alexandre Lesueur drew scenes of Sydney and its surrounds, as well as exquisite natural history records. Taken from their camp on Bennelong Point (where the Sydney Opera House now stands) this view looks across Sydney Cove to where The Rocks and the southern end of the Harbour Bridge are now. (Exhibition text)

 

Ferdinand Bauer (Austria 1760-1826, England 1787-1801, 1805-14, Australia 1801-05) 'Gymea Lily' 1806-13, published 1813 (installation view)

 

Ferdinand Bauer (Austria 1760-1826, England 1787-1801, 1805-14, Australia 1801-05)
Gymea Lily (installation view)
1806-13, published 1813
Plate 13 from Illustrationes florae Novae Hollandiae, sive icones generum quae in Prodromo Novae Hollandiae et insulae van Diemen decripsit Robertus Brown, published London 1813
Colour engraving with hand-colouring
36.2 x 24.3 cm irreg. (image) 39.0 x 25.2 cm (plate) 51.0 x 34.0 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 2004
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Ferdinand Bauer. 'Banksia coccinea' 1806-13

 

Ferdinand Bauer (Austria 1760-1826, England 1787-1801, 1805-14, Australia 1801-05)
Banksia coccinea
1806-13, published 1813
Plate 3 from Illustrationes florae Novae Hollandiae, sive icones generum quae in Prodromo Novae Hollandiae et insulae van Diemen decripsit Robertus Brown, published London 1813
Colour engraving with hand-colouring
36.2 x 24.3 cm irreg. (image) 39.0 x 25.2 cm (plate) 51.0 x 34.0 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 2004

 

 

Austrian-born Ferdinand Bauer is recognised as one of the most accomplished natural history artists who did much of his art while travelling, both in the Mediterranean and then as an official artist on Matthew Flinders’ circumnavigation of Australia (1801-03). Working closely with botanist Robert Brown, Bauer produced over 2000 drawings and watercolours, and continued with his meticulous work upon his return to London. This engraving exemplifies his skill: it is engraved, printed in colour and then carefully handpainted, all by Bauer himself. Regrettably his intended botanical publication ran to only fifteen plates. (Exhibition text)

 

Barthélemy Roger. 'Y-erran-gou-la-ga' 1824

 

Barthélemy Roger (engraver, France 1767-1841)
Nicolas-Martin Petit (after) (draughtsman, France 1777-1804)
Y-erran-gou-la-ga, a native of the environs of Port Jackson (Y-erran-gou-la-ga, suavage des environs du port Jackson)
1824
Plate 24 in the Voyage de Découvertes aux Terres Australes (Voyage of Discovery to the Southern Lands) atlas
Arthus Bertrand, Paris, 1824, 2nd edition
Hand-coloured engraving, etching and stipple engraving printed in black and brown ink
31.5 x 24.1 cm (plate) 36.5 x 27.6 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Joe White Bequest, 2010

 

William Westall. 'Chasm Island, native cave painting' 1803

 

William Westall (England 1781-1850, Australia 1801-03)
Chasm Island, native cave painting
1803
Watercolour
26.7 x 36.6 cm
National Library of Australia, Canberra

 

William Westall. 'A view of King George's Sound' 1802

 

William Westall (England 1781-1850, Australia 1801-03)
A view of King George’s Sound
1802
Watercolour and pen and brown ink
27.9 x 42.9 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1978

 

 

William Westall was one of two artists who accompanied Matthew Flinders on the Investigator as it circumnavigated Australia between 1801 and 1803. This highly finished watercolour of King George’s Sound in south-western Australia is not a topographical study, but a romantic vision of a vast, silent and forbidding land. Two generic Aboriginal people figures are included in the foreground in the guise of the noble savage. Their classicised robes and the lack of a European presence, particularly the explorers encountering them, shows Westall casting the scene in an Arcadian period prior to British encounter. (Exhibition text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne featuring the Bowman flag 1806 Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Mary Bowman (attributed to) (active in Australia early 19th century)
Bowman flag
1806
Oil on silk
State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Presented by John Bowman’s great grandchildren to Richmond Superior Public School, 1905; transferred to the Mitchell Library by the Dept. of Public Instruction, 1916

 

 

Made to commemorate Lord Nelson’s naval victory at Trafalgar, this remarkable flag was flown at Scottish free settler John Bowman’s farm in 1806. The first Australian-made flag, it features the earliest recorded image of a kangaroo and emu supporting a shield, one hundred years prior to the implementation of the current coat of arms. According to family members, the Bowman flag was made from the silk of Honor Bowman’s wedding dress and sewn by her daughter Mary Bowman; however, more recent analysis suggests the design was most likely commissioned from a professional sign painter. (Exhibition text)

 

John Lewin (England 1770 - Australia 1819, Australia from 1800) 'Koala and young' 1803

 

John Lewin (England 1770 – Australia 1819, Australia from 1800)
Koala and young (installation view)
1803
Watercolour and gouache
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Purchased from a descendant of Governor King, 1983
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Surprisingly, koalas were not captured by colonists until 1803, although their existence had been known of for several years, and they were described as cullawine or colo, the names used by Aboriginal hunters. In August 1803 a female and two joeys were taken to Sydney, where they were reported in the recently founded Sydney Gazette. After one joey died, the mother and surviving joey were painted, proficiently by the Sydney-based artist John Lewin, and exquisitely by expedition artist Ferdinand Bauer. Bauer was unable to complete his watercolour in time to be sent on a departing ship, and thus Lewin’s was the first visual record of this animal to reach England. (Exhibition text)

 

John Lewin. 'The gigantic lyllie of New South Wales' 1810

 

John Lewin (England 1770 – Australia 1819, Australia from 1800)
The gigantic lyllie of New South Wales
1810
Watercolour
54.1x 43.6 cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney Purchased 1968

 

 

Natural history

In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the world was being studied and described by Europeans on a scale never seen before. Exploration in the Pacific revealed unanticipated communities and environments and the vast quantities of material brought back – objects, artefacts, specimens, maps, records, descriptions – were regarded with awe and astonishment. Enlightenment ambitions to understand the world through empirical observation led to intense scientific scrutiny, as people sought to comprehend and to classify this exciting, bemusing abundance. In this period, visual imagery became increasingly important, far exceeding a written description and surpassing dried or dead specimens in its ability to depict form, texture, colour, oddity and beauty.

From the time of the British landing in 1770, the people of Britain and Europe were astounded by what they saw in the colony. Captain (later Governor) John Hunter wrote ‘it would require the pencil of an able limner [artist] to give a stranger an idea of [the colourful birds], for it is impossible by words to describe them’. John Lewin was the first professional artist to arrive in New South Wales. Trained in natural history illustration and printmaking, Lewin promptly began drawing and making etchings of local moths and birds perched on Australian plants. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Unknown. 'The kanguroo, an animal found on the coast of New Holland' 1773

 

George Stubbs after (England 1724-1806)
Unknown (etcher active in England 1770s)
The kanguroo, an animal found on the coast of New Holland
1773
Plate in An Account of the Voyages undertaken … for making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere by John Hawkesworth, printed for W. Strahan and T. Cadell, London, 1773
Etching
Rare Books Collection, State Library Victoria, Melbourne

 

 

Of all the ‘discoveries’ made in Australia by the crew of the Endeavour, one completely unexpected creature captured European imaginations; an animal, Cook wrote, like a greyhound except that ‘it jump’d like a Hare or Deer’. Several of these were caught in northern Queensland where they were called gangurru by the local Guugu Yimithirr. In London, Banks commissioned leading animal painter George Stubbs to paint the kangaroo, although he had only skins, skulls and sketches by Parkinson as his guide. This painting was reproduced in the official account of the voyage, published in 1773, two years after the Endeavour returned home. (Exhibition text)

 

Installation views of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with at second right top in the bottom image, James Sowerby’s Embothrium speciosissimum (now Telopea speciosissima) 1793
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

James Sowerby. 'Embothrium speciosissimum (now Telopea speciosissima)' 1793

 

James Sowerby (England 1757 – France 1822)
Embothrium speciosissimum (now Telopea speciosissima)
1793
Plate 7 from A Specimen of the Botany of New Holland, part 2, by James Edward Smith, published by James Sowerby, London 1793
Hand-coloured etching and gum arabic
23.6 x 16.0 cm (image and plate), 30.0 x 23.2 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Joe White Bequest, 2015

 

 

A Specimen of the Botany of New Holland by the preeminent English botanist James Edward Smith was the first book dedicated to the study of Australia’s flora. The publication was illustrated by one of England’s leading botanical artists, James Sowerby, who was working from drawings made by John White, surgeon-general of New South Wales, as well as from dried specimens. The detailed illustrations and use of proper Latin names in Smith and Sowerby’s publication follows the authors’ intention to publish a scientific book that also reached a lay audience. (Exhibition text)

 

Richard Browne (illustrator) 'Insects' 1813

 

Richard Browne (illustrator, Ireland 1776 – Australia 1824, Australia from 1811)
Insects
1813
Page 52 in Select Specimens from Nature of the Birds Animals &c &c of New South Wales collected and arranged by Thomas Skottowe 1813
Watercolour
18.7 x 30.0 cm (page)
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Bequeathed by D.S. Mitchell, 1907

 

 

Convicts with artistic talent were often put to work by their overseers. This was the case for convict Richard Browne who was assigned to Newcastle commandant Thomas Skottowe. Browne hand-painted the illustrations in Skottowe’s 1813 book, Select Specimens from Nature. Upon his release, Browne returned to Sydney, where he continued to paint stylised images of emus, lyrebirds and other animals. He also made portraits of Awabakal and Eora individuals, with the intention of selling these drawings to the developing local market, or as souvenirs to people aboard visiting ships. (Exhibition text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with in the bottom image at right, John Lewin’s Fish catch and Dawes Point, Sydney Harbour c. 1813; and second right, John Lewin’s Platypus 1810
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

John Lewin
Fish catch and Dawes Point, Sydney Harbour (detail)
c. 1813
Oil on canvas
86.5 x 113.0 cm
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Gift of the Art Gallery of South Australia Foundation and South Australian Brewing Holdings Limited 1989
Given to mark the occasion of the Company’s 1988 Centenary
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

John Lewin. 'Fish catch and Dawes Point, Sydney Harbour' c. 1813 

 

John Lewin (England 1770 – Australia 1819, Australia from 1800)
Fish catch and Dawes Point, Sydney Harbour
c. 1813
Oil on canvas
86.5 x 113.0 cm
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Gift of the Art Gallery of South Australia Foundation and South Australian Brewing Holdings Limited 1989
Given to mark the occasion of the Company’s 1988 Centenary

 

 

In 1812, John Lewin wrote to a friend that he had two oil paintings underway, one of which is believed to be this unusual composition of a haul of fish caught in Sydney Harbour set against the background of Dawes Point (now The Rocks, Sydney). It is thus the earliest oil painting known to have been produced in Australia. Pictured in the composition are various identifiable fish varieties, including a crimson squirrelfish, estuary perch, rainbow wrasse, sea mullet and hammerhead shark, later named the Zygaena lewini (now Sphyrna lewini) after the artist. (Exhibition text)

 

John Lewin (England 1770 - Australia 1819, Australia from 1800) 'Platypus' 1810

 

John Lewin (England 1770 – Australia 1819, Australia from 1800)
Platypus
1810
Watercolour and gouache
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Bequeathed to the Trustees of the National Art Gallery of N.S.W. by Helen Banning; transferred to the Mitchell Library 1913
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Sydney Bird Painter. 'Black Swan' c. 1790

 

Sydney Bird Painter
Black Swan
c. 1790
Watercolour and ink
48.1 x 29.2 cm
Kerry Stokes Collection, Perth

 

 

Images of the black swan, as well as living birds and skins, were sent back to a fascinated Europe. One depiction became the pose de rigueur – a swan afloat, shown in profile like a heraldic symbol, with wings raised to show the white flight feathers. Like the Stubbs kangaroo, this black swan appeared in numerous forms. This beautiful watercolour was painted by an unidentified artist, possibly a member of the First Fleet, whose hand has also been identified in a volume of watercolours depicting birds held in the Mitchell Library, Sydney. Two or three artists made these drawings, and they are now collectively referred to as the Sydney Bird Painter. (Exhibition text)

 

Peter Brown. 'Blue-bellied parrot' 1776

 

Peter Brown (active in England 1758-99)
Blue-bellied parrot
1776
Plate VII in New Illustrations of Zoology: Containing Fifty Coloured Plates of New, Curious, and Non-Descript Birds, with a Few Quadrupeds, Reptiles and Insects, published by B. White, London 1776
Hand coloured etching
19.0 x 24.6 cm (image and plate), 24.0 x 30.5 cm (sheet)
Special Collections, Deakin University, Melbourne

 

 

It is unusual to know about an individual bird but this rainbow lorikeet (as it is now known) was captured at Botany Bay by Tupaia, the skilled Polynesian navigator and arioi (priest) who joined the Endeavour in Tahiti. The bird was taken back alive to London, and presented by Joseph Banks to the wealthy collector Marmaduke Tunstall. A watercolour of it was painted in 1772, and this print was published in 1776, carefully hand-coloured to show the bird’s distinctive plumage. (Exhibition text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with at centre, Joseph Lycett’s Inner view of Newcastle c. 1818
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Joseph Lycett. 'Inner view of Newcastle' c. 1818

 

Joseph Lycett (England c. 1775-1828, Australia 1814-22)
Inner view of Newcastle
c. 1818
Oil on canvas
59.6 x 90.0 cm
Newcastle Art Gallery, Newcastle
Purchased with assistance from the National Art Collections Fund, London UK 1961

 

 

Forger Joseph Lycett was sent to the secondary penal settlement in Newcastle in 1815 after reoffending. His artistic skills soon attracted the patronage of Commandant Captain James Wallis, and under his direction he produced several paintings and drawings for etchings of birds and the landscape, as well as keenly observed watercolours of the local Awabakal people. This view shows the unmistakable profile of Newcastle’s Nobby’s Island, a site which is, according to the Awabakal people, the home of a giant kangaroo that was banished from its kin. The crashing of his great tail against the ground is said to be the cause of earthquakes and tremors in the area. (Exhibition text)

 

 

Newcastle 1804

A penal settlement was established in Newcastle in 1804 as a place of secondary punishment for convicts. The area was rich in natural resources, including timber in the hinterland, large deposits of coal in the cliffs at the entrance to the harbour and shell middens for lime burning. Reoffenders sent to Newcastle experienced gruelling physical labour extracting these materials and desertion occurred frequently.

Yet, from this brutal setting, a rich body of work was born which represents the first local art movement by settlers within the Australian colonies. Over a decade, two commandants overseeing the settlement, Lieutenant Thomas Skottowe (1811-18) and Captain James Wallis (1816-22), both of whom were appointed by Governor Lachlan Macquarie, used convicts with artistic skills on a range of projects and capital works programs. They set artists to work documenting the Newcastle region and the local flora and fauna in drawings, paintings and prints. Others interacted with the local Awabakal people and produced important visual documents recording specific individuals and their way of life. Convicted forger Joseph Lycett was sent to Newcastle in 1815, and was the most significant artist involved in these projects, executing a group of major oil paintings, numerous watercolours, and drawings for subsequent etchings. (Text from the NGV website)

 

James Wallis (Ireland c. 1785 - England 1858, Australia 1814-19) 'View of Awabakal Aboriginal people, with beach and river inlet, and distant Aboriginal group in background' c. 1818 (installation view)

 

James Wallis (Ireland c. 1785 – England 1858, Australia 1814-19)
View of Awabakal Aboriginal people, with beach and river inlet, and distant Aboriginal group in background (installation view)
c. 1818
in his Album of original drawings by Captain James Wallis and Joseph Lycett, bound with An Historical Account of the Colony of New South Wales by James Wallis, published by R. Ackerman, London, 1821 (c. 1817–21)
Watercolour and collaged watercolour
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Purchased 2011
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

This image is one of a number of watercolours painted by Captain James Wallis that were bound into his personal copy of this publication. This naive image shows Awabakal people from the Newcastle region, whose figures have been cut out and collaged over the coastal scene behind. This presents a harmonious relationship between the Awabakal, colonisers and the military. Such a suggestion is at odds with earlier events of April 1816 when Wallis, under the direction of Governor Macquarie, led an armed regiment against Dharawal and Gandangara people south of Sydney, in what is now acknowledged as the first officially sanctioned massacre of Indigenous people in Australia. (Exhibition text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne showing the Dixson collector’s chest c. 1818-20
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

'Dixson collector's chest' c. 1818-20

 

William Temple (cabinetmaker)
Patrick Riley (cabinetmaker)
John Webster (cabinetmaker)
Joseph Lycett (attributed to) (decorator)
James Wallis (after)
William Westall (after)
Dixson collector’s chest
c. 1818-20
Australian Rose Mahogany (Dysoxylum fraserianum), Red Cedar (Toona ciliata), brass, oil, natural history specimens
56.0 x 71.3 x 46.5 cm (closed)
Dixson Galleries, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Presented by Sir William Dixson, 1937

 

 

The Dixson collector’s chest

The Dixson collector’s chest, c. 1818-20, and its close relation, the Macquarie collector’s chest, c. 1818, are rare examples of colonial ‘cabinets of curiosity’ and among the most fascinating and complex objects of the colonial period. The Macquarie collector’s chest was commissioned and likely designed by Captain James Wallis, commandant of Newcastle, to present to Governor Lachlan Macquarie. It is debated whether the Dixson collector’s chest, on display here, was produced as its prototype or subsequently as a second version.

Crafted by expert convict cabinet-makers from local Australian timbers, the cabinet opens to reveal painted panels by convict artist Joseph Lycett. Several show the Newcastle region, while others are painted after views by exploration artist William Westall. The drawers contain shells and originally would have also held other natural history specimens including birds, insects, coral and seaweed, tagged and arranged fastidiously by shape, colour and/or type. It is believed these specimens were collected with the assistance of the local Awabakal people, as Wallis had an amicable relationship with their kinsman Burigon.

Both of these chests were only discovered in the twentieth century; the example owned by Macquarie was found in a Scottish castle in the late 1970s, while the Dixson collector’s chest was acquired by Sir William Dixson, benefactor of the State Library of New South Wales, from a London dealer in 1937. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with in foreground, showing Dress uniform worn by Sir Edward Deas Thomson, Colonial Secretary of New South Wales 1832-42; and in the background, Augustus Earle’s Captain John Piper c. 1826 and Mary Ann Piper and her children c. 1826
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

In the three years he spent in the colonies, Augustus Earle established himself as one of its leading artists, specialising in portraiture. He was commissioned to produce several portraits of prominent officials including surveyor George Evans, also on display; the departing governor, Sir Thomas Brisbane; and this pair of canvases depicting Captain John Piper and his family. Dressed in a uniform of his own design, Piper is portrayed as a man at the height of his power. The accompanying portrait of Mary Ann with four of their thirteen children depicts the family at home. Her gentility is emphasised by her fashionable dress, banishing all trace of her origins as the daughter of First Fleet convicts. (Exhibition text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne showing Dress uniform worn by Sir Edward Deas Thomson, Colonial Secretary of New South Wales (detail) 1832-42
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Unknown, England / Australia (maker)
Firmin & Sons, London (button maker England est. 1677)
Dress uniform worn by Sir Edward Deas Thomson, Colonial Secretary of New South Wales
1832-42
Wool, silver brocade (appliqué), metal (buttons)
Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney Purchased 1966

 

 

Worn by Sir Edward Deas Thomson, Colonial Secretary of New South Wales between 1837 and 1856, this dress coat and trousers formed part of Thomson’s official livery. Loosely based on the Windsor uniform, introduced by King George III, the outfit’s striking red collar and cuffs with oak leaf and acorn hand embroidery impart splendour. In the nascent colony, uniforms were a way to differentiate status, easing anxieties about social mobility and instilling discipline and obedience. (Exhibition text)

 

Augustus Earle (England 1793-1838, Brazil 1820-24, Australia 1825-28) 'Wentworth Falls' c. 1830 (installation view)

 

Augustus Earle (England 1793-1838, Brazil 1820-24, Australia 1825-28)
Wentworth Falls
c. 1830
Oil on canvas
Rex Nan Kivell Collection: National Library of Australia and National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

The intrepid artist and adventurer Augustus Earle arrived in Australia in January 1825 at a time when the economic and social hierarchies of the new colony were still in flux. An accidental émigré, rescued from the tiny island of Tristan da Cunha, where he had been marooned, Earle’s enterprising nature and versatile talents saw him build up a rich visual record of the colonial encounter for local and international audiences. These large oils were produced in England, several years after his return from the colony, and are among the first to evoke the scale and grandeur of the Australian wilderness. (Exhibition text)

 

Augustus Earle (England 1793-1838, Brazil 1820-24, Australia 1825-28) 'A bivouac of travellers in Australia in a cabbage-tree forest, day break' c. 1838

 

Augustus Earle (England 1793-1838, Brazil 1820-24, Australia 1825-28)
A bivouac of travellers in Australia in a cabbage-tree forest, day break (see installation photograph below at left)
c. 1838
Oil on canvas
118.0 x 82.0 cm
Rex Nan Kivell Collection: National Library of Australia and National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with at bottom centre, Augustus Earle’s Portrait of Bungaree, a native of New South Wales c. 1826
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Bungaree, or Boongaree, (1775 – 24 November 1830) was an Aboriginal Australian from the Kuringgai people of the Broken Bay area, who was known as an explorer, entertainer, and Aboriginal community leader. He is significant in that he was the first person to be recorded in print as an Australian.

By the end of his life, he had become a familiar sight in colonial Sydney, dressed in a succession of military and naval uniforms that had been given to him. His distinctive outfits and notoriety within colonial society, as well as his gift for humour and mimicry, especially his impressions of past and present governors, made him a popular subject for portrait painters.

Bungaree first came to prominence in 1798, when he accompanied Matthew Flinders on a coastal survey as an interpreter, guide and negotiator with local indigenous groups. He later accompanied Flinders on his circumnavigation of Australia between 1801 and 1803 in the Investigator. Flinders was the cartographer of the first complete map of Australia, filling in the gaps from previous cartographic expeditions, and was the most prominent advocate for naming the continent “Australia”. Flinders noted that Bungaree was “a worthy and brave fellow” who, on multiple occasions, saved the expedition. Bungaree continued his association with exploratory voyages when he accompanied Phillip Parker King to north-western Australia in 1817 in the Mermaid.

In 1815, Governor Lachlan Macquarie dubbed Bungaree “Chief of the Broken Bay Tribe” and presented him with 15 acres (61,000 m2) of land on George’s Head. He also received a breastplate inscribed “BOONGAREE – Chief of the Broken Bay Tribe – 1815”. Bungaree was also known by the titles “King of Port Jackson” and “King of the Blacks”. Bungaree spent the rest of his life ceremonially welcoming visitors to Australia, educating people about Aboriginal culture (especially boomerang throwing), and soliciting tribute, especially from ships visiting Sydney. In 1828, he and his clan moved to the Governor’s Domain, and were given rations, with Bungaree described as ‘in the last stages of human infirmity’. He died at Garden Island on 24 November 1830 and was buried in Rose Bay. Obituaries of him were carried in the Sydney Gazette and The Australian.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Augustus Earle. 'Portrait of Bungaree, a native of New South Wales' c. 1826

 

Augustus Earle (England 1793-1838, Brazil 1820-24, Australia 1825-28)
Portrait of Bungaree, a native of New South Wales
c. 1826
Oil on canvas
68.5 x 50.5 cm
Rex Nan Kivell Collection: National Library of Australia and National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

 

Sydney 1810s-50s

The 1810s through to the 1850s was an era of expansion for the colonists who had settled in New South Wales and a time of continuing dispossession for Aboriginal people. Transportation ended in 1840, but convict labour continued to be assigned to assist with building roads and clearing land for pastoralists. The settler population grew and continued to occupy land further inland, north and south of Sydney. Emigration commissioners in London, and advocates within the colony, worked to encourage the arrival of free settlers, particularly women.

Throughout this period Sydney was the local centre of political power, and social and cultural sophistication. Artistic patronage was fostered. This is reflected in the proliferation of images in which nature and civilisation are pleasantly unified; the newly tamed wilderness placed against views of newly constructed Georgian buildings, demonstrating the colony’s ability to create order and flourish. Portraits were also in demand, and not only reflected the material success of prominent families but were commissioned by the expanding middle class. A print industry was established and expanded as the demand for locally produced prints increased. Images of colonial subjects, including portraits of Aboriginal people, account for a significant proportion of the art market at this time. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Edward Charles Close (Bengal (Bangladesh) 1790 - Australia 1866, Australia from 1817) 'The costume of the Australasians' c. 1817

 

Edward Charles Close (Bengal (Bangladesh) 1790 – Australia 1866, Australia from 1817)
The costume of the Australasians
c. 1817
In his New South Wales Sketchbook: Sea Voyage, Sydney, Illawarra, Newcastle, Morpeth c. 1817-40
Watercolour
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Purchased 2009

 

Installation views of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne featuring Elizabeth Macquarie, Governor Lachlan Macquarie and Lachlan Macquarie junior
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Unknown artist
Elizabeth Macquarie
c. 1819
Watercolour on ivory
State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Presented by F. W. Lawson, 1928

Unknown artist
Governor Lachlan Macquarie
c. 1819
Watercolour on ivory
State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Presented by Miss M. Bather Moore and Mr T. C. Bather Moore, 1965

Unknown artist
Lachlan Macquarie junior
c. 1817-18
Watercolour on ivory State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Presented by Miss M. Bather Moore and Mr T. C. Bather Moore, 1965

 

 

Portrait miniatures were produced in England from the sixteenth century, with the first example on ivory painted in 1707. They remained a popular form of portraiture, as they were both intimate and easy to carry, until photography gradually took over all but the high end of the market. In Australia miniatures were similarly popular with the more affluent colonists. Lachlan Macquarie was the governor of New South Wales from 1810 to 1821. This suite of miniatures, painted in Australia by a skilled but now unknown artist, show Macquarie, his wife Elizabeth and their young son. They were presented to Captain John Cliffe Watts, Macquarie’s aide-de-camp, as a gift and memento of friendship, prior to Cliffe’s return to England in April 1819. (Exhibition text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne showing Henry Gritten’s oil on canvas Hobart, Tasmania 1856 National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Felton Bequest, 1975
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Hobart’s Mount Wellington was a landmark of such majestic beauty that for many it rivalled the magnificent natural harbour of Sydney. The site naturally attracted the pen and brush of many colonial artists including John Glover, Knud Bull and Eugene von Guérard. Henry Gritten, who lived in Hobart from 1856 until at least 1858, painted it many times, and it is almost as common in his oeuvre as his views of Melbourne from the Botanic Gardens of the 1860s. Most artists painted the view from the same vantage point adopted by Gritten, looking across the Derwent River towards the settlement nestled at the foot of the rising mountain. (Exhibition text)

 

 

Van Diemen’s Land 1803

In 1803, 160 years after the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman named and charted Van Diemen’s Land, the British laid claim to the island by relocating convicts and officers from New South Wales to forestall any incursion by the French. Convict transports continued to arrive intermittently in Van Diemen’s Land, mostly bringing prisoners from Britain and Ireland, until 1856, by which time more than 72,000 convicts had been sent there. There were several penal settlements established in Van Diemen’s Land, the most notorious of which were at Macquarie Harbour and Port Arthur.

In 1804, a year after the arrival of the first transports of convicts, Hobart Town was founded on the banks of the Derwent River and it quickly became an important southern trading port.

Over the next twenty years the settlement developed into a cultured, albeit provincial, Georgian township. Local sandstone was widely used to build fine buildings, including places of worship and civic and commercial buildings, and in turn the cultural life of the colony developed. In 1822 fifty-eight per cent of the population of Van Diemen’s Land were convicts, and consequently the majority of artists and artisans came from their ranks. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Unknown, Tasmania. 'Waistcoat' mid 19th century (installation view)

 

Unknown, Tasmania
Waistcoat (installation view)
Mid 19th century
Wool, cotton, bone
Collection of Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority, Hobart
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne showing Unknown, Tasmania 'Jacket' mid 19th century

 

Unknown, Tasmania
Jacket (installation view)
Mid 19th century
Wool, linen, cotton, bone
Collection of Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority, Hobart
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne showing Unknown, Tasmania Jacket and Indoor cap mid 19th century, wool, linen, cotton, bone
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Unknown
Tasmania Jacket
Mid 19th century
Wool, linen, cotton, bone
Collection of Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority, Hobart

Unknown, Tasmania
Indoor cap
Mid 19th century
Wool
Collection of Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority, Hobart

 

 

All convicts transported to Australia were issued with a set of clothing designed to differentiate between them and to facilitate identification should they attempt to escape. Although most convicts wore what became known as ‘slops’ in plain greys, dark browns and blues – like this jacket – the lowest class of convicts, particularly those with life sentences, were made to wear yellow. Colloquial terms soon emerged to describe these uniforms: a partly coloured black and buff uniform that demarcated reoffenders became known as a ‘magpie’, while the yellow-suited convicts were called ‘canaries’. (Exhibition text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne showing Lion’s head, Book-shaped puzzle box, Bell and Fork mid 19th century
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Unknown, Tasmania
Lion’s head
Mid 19th century
Iron
Collection of Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority, Port Arthur

Unknown, Tasmania
Book-shaped puzzle box
Mid 19th century wood
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston Beattie Collection

Unknown, Tasmania
Bell
Mid 19th century
Wood, brass, iron, bronze
Collection of Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority, Hobart

Unknown, Tasmania
Fork
Mid 19th century
Wood
Collection of Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority, Port Arthur

 

 

NGV Australia will host two complementary exhibitions that explore Australia’s complex colonial history and the art that emerged during and in response to this period. Presented concurrently, these two ambitious and large-scale exhibitions, Colony: Australia 1770-1861 and Colony: Frontier Wars, offer differing perspectives on the colonisation of Australia.

Featuring an unprecedented assemblage of loans from major public institutions around Australia, Colony: Australia 1770-1861 is the most comprehensive survey of Australian colonial art to date. The exhibition explores the rich diversity of art, craft and design produced between 1770, the arrival of Lieutenant James Cook and the Endeavour, and 1861, the year the NGV was established.

The counterpoint to Colony: Australia 1770-1861, Colony: Frontier Wars presents a powerful response to colonisation through a range of historical and contemporary works by Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists dating from pre-contact times to present day. From nineteenth-century drawings by esteemed Wurundjeri artist and leader, William Barak, to the iridescent LED light boxes of Jonathan Jones, this exhibition reveals how Aboriginal people have responded to the arrival of Europeans with art that is diverse, powerful and compelling.

Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV said: ‘Cook’s landing marks the beginning of a history that still has repercussions today. This two-part exhibition presents different perspectives of a shared history with unprecedented depth and scope, featuring a breadth of works never-before-seen in Victoria. In order to realise this ambitious project, we have drawn upon the expertise and scholarship of many individuals from both within and outside the NGV. We are extremely grateful to the Aboriginal Elders and advisory groups who have offered their guidance, expertise and support,’ said Ellwood.

Joy Murphy-Wandin, Senior Wurundjeri Elder, said: ‘I am overwhelmed at the magnitude and integrity of this display: such work and vision is a credit to the curatorial team. The NGV is to be congratulated for providing a visual truth that will enable the public to see, and hopefully understand, First Peoples’ heartache, pain and anger. Colony: Australia 1770-1861 / Frontier Wars is a must see for all if we are to realise and action true reconciliation.’

Charting key moments of history, life and culture in the colonies, Colony: Australia 1770-1861 includes over 600 diverse and significant works, including examples of historical Aboriginal cultural objects, early watercolours, illustrated books, drawings, prints, paintings, sculpture and photographs, to a selection of furniture, fashion, textiles, decorative arts, and even taxidermy specimens.

Highlights from the exhibition include a wondrous ‘cabinet of curiosities’ showcasing the earliest European images of Australian flowers and animals, including the first Western image of a kangaroo and illustrations by the talented young water colourist Sarah Stone. Examples of early colonial cabinetmaking also feature, including the convict made and decorated Dixson chest containing shells and natural history specimens, as well as a rarely seen panorama of Melbourne in 1841 will also be on display.

Following the development of Western art and culture, the exhibition includes early drawings and paintings by convict artists such as convicted forgers Thomas Watling and Joseph Lycett; the first oil painting produced in the colonies by professional artist John Lewin; work by the earliest professional female artists, Mary Morton Allport, Martha Berkeley and Theresa Walker; landscapes by John Glover and Eugene von Guérard; photographs by the first professional photographer in Australia, George Goodman, and a set of Douglas Kilburn’s silver-plated daguerreotypes, which are the earliest extant photographs of Indigenous peoples.

Colony: Frontier Wars attests to the resilience of culture and Community, and addresses difficult aspects of Australia’s shared history, including dispossession and the stolen generation, through the works of Julie Gough, Brook Andrew, Maree Clarke, Ricky Maynard, Marlene Gilson, Julie Dowling, S. T. Gill, J. W. Lindt, Gordon Bennett, Arthur Boyd, Tommy McRae, Christian Thompson, and many more.

Giving presence to the countless makers whose identities have been lost as a consequence of colonialism, Colony: Frontier Wars also includes a collection of anonymous photographic portraits and historical cultural objects, including shields, clubs, spear throwers and spears, by makers whose names, language groups and Countries were not recorded at the time of collection. Challenging global museum conventions, the exhibition will credit the subjects and makers of these cultural objects as ‘once known’ rather than ‘unknown’.

Press release from the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne showing William Francis Emery’s (active in Australia c. 1850-65) oil on canvas View of Ipswich from Limestone Hill c. 1861 Ipswich Art Gallery Collection, Ipswich
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne featuring 19th century earthenware and stoneware
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Left

Andreas Fritsch (Germany 1808 – Australia 1896, Australia from 1849)
Teapot
c. 1850
Earthenware
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of W. G. Tuck, 1972

Middle

Andreas Fritsch (Germany 1808 – Australia 1896, Australia from 1849)
Coffee pot
c. 1850
Earthenware
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of W. G. Tuck, 1972

Right

Trewenack, Magill, South Australia (pottery 1853-1928)
John Henry Trewenack (potter England 1853 – Australia 1883, Australia from 1849)
Lidded storage jar
c. 1855
Stoneware
National Museum of Australian Pottery, Holbrook, New South Wales

 

 

This sharply waisted coffee pot, with its flat lid and nipped-in knob, is of a traditional German type. Fritsch arrived in Melbourne from Schwarzenbek in northern Germany in 1849, accompanied by his wife and four children. He showed eight earthenware objects (which may have included this coffee pot and teapot) at the Victoria Industrial Society exhibition in Melbourne in 1851. The Argus commented on 30 January that Fritsch’s exhibits, which earned him a large silver medal, ‘shewed [sic] how little necessity there is for Victoria being dependent in this article on any other portion of the globe’.

 

Edward Robert Mickleburgh (England 1814 - late 19th century, Australia from c. 1841-1870s) 'The barque Terror commencing after Sperm Whales' 1840s (installation view)

 

Edward Robert Mickleburgh (England 1814 – late 19th century, Australia from c. 1841-1870s)
The barque Terror commencing after Sperm Whales (installation view)
1840s
Panbone and pigment
Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney
Purchased, 2004
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne showing Panoramic view of King George’s Sound, part of the colony of Swan River 1834
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Lieutenant Robert Dale (draughtsman England 1810-53, Australia 1829-33)
Robert Havell junior (engraver England 1793-1878, United States 1839-78)
Panoramic view of King George’s Sound, part of the colony of Swan River
1834
Engraving, colour aquatint and watercolour on 3 joined sheets
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1958

 

 

This lengthy and detailed print shows the distinctive coastline viewed from the rocky summit of Mount Clarence, with the recently established government farm at Strawberry Hill and what later became Albany below. Drawn by surveyor Lieutenant Robert Dale and translated into print by Robert Havell in London, it depicts Nyungar and European figures in friendly contact, surrounded by native vegetation and animals. The spectacular view may have enticed prospective investors or settlers, promoting an idyllic vision with its abundance of fertile land and peaceful relations with the Traditional Owners. (Exhibition text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne showing at bottom, John Glover’s oil on canvas The Island of Madeira 1831-39 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

John Glover (England 1767 - Australia 1849, Australia from 1831) 'Moulting Lagoon and Great Oyster Bay, from Pine Hill' c. 1838 (installation view)

 

John Glover (England 1767 – Australia 1849, Australia from 1831)
Moulting Lagoon and Great Oyster Bay, from Pine Hill (installation view)
c. 1838
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with assistance of an anonymous donor and the M. G. Chapman Bequest, 2011
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

John Glover. 'View of Mills Plains, Van Diemen's Land' 1833

 

John Glover (England 1767 – Australia 1849, Australia from 1831)
View of Mills Plains, Van Diemen’s Land
1833
Oil on canvas
76.2 x 114.6 cm
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Morgan Thomas Bequest Fund 1951

 

 

John Glover was a mature and well-established artist by the time he immigrated to Van Diemen’s Land in 1831. He had enjoyed a long and mostly successful career as a painter in England and had exhibited at London’s Royal Academy on several occasions. He took to the bright light and colour of Van Diemen’s Land easily, depicting the distinctive terrain and vegetation with unerring naturalism and the selective, idealising eye of the picturesque painter. He established a farm named Patterdale in Deddington, outside of Launceston, with his sons. The property and surrounding Mills Plains countryside often feature as a subject in his paintings. (Exhibition text)

 

 

Van Diemen’s Land 1820s-50s

The increased arrival of free settlers from the 1820s onwards saw the colony of Van Diemen’s Land evolve from a brutal penal settlement into an economically sound and vibrant cultural centre. With its pleasant climate, few droughts and floods, and open grassland, which seemed pre-prepared for aspiring pastoralists, Van Diemen’s Land became the preferred destination for immigrants. By 1830, almost a third of the arrivals to Australia settled in the south, and the small island experienced economic prosperity.

Colonial society was increasingly able to support a vibrant artistic community, composed of amateurs and professionals, free settlers, highly skilled convicts and emancipists who found patronage despite their unsavoury backgrounds. In August 1837 the colony asserted its cultural superiority when Hobart hosted the first exhibition of art to be held in Australia, under the patronage of Lieutenant-Governor John Franklin and his wife, Jane. The Franklins had arrived in Hobart earlier that year, and during their tenure (1837-43) enthusiastically fostered the development of intellectual life, regarding the visual arts as an outward signifier of culture in the colony. The Vandemonian art, decorative arts and design produced from the 1830s to the early 1850s are among the most sophisticated and diverse of the colonial era. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with at left, John Glover’s The River Nile, Van Diemen’s Land, from Mr Glover’s farm 1837; at centre, Hamilton Inn Sofa c. 1825; and in cabinet Necklace late 19th century
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

John Glover (England 1767 - Australia 1849, Australia from 1831) 'The River Nile, Van Diemen's Land, from Mr Glover's farm' 1837

 

John Glover (England 1767 – Australia 1849, Australia from 1831)
The River Nile, Van Diemen’s Land, from Mr Glover’s farm
1837
Oil on canvas
76.4 x 114.6 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1956

 

 

John Glover’s colonial landscapes can be divided into two groups: pastoral scenes of the land surrounding his own property, and pre-contact Aboriginal Arcadias. Although the Aboriginal figures are at times generic, they are shown as active participants in the landscape. Such scenes were, however, entirely imagined, as Glover encountered very few Tasmanian Aboriginal people while in the colony. Glover had not experienced the conflict or witnessed the violence between Tasmanian Aboriginal resistance fighters and white settlers during the 1820s. By the time of his arrival in 1831, the Tasmanian Aboriginal survivors had been forced to leave Country and relocate to Flinders Island.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with at front left, Necklace late 19th century
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Unknown (Tasmanian Aboriginal active late 19th century)
Necklace
Late 19th century
Maireener shells (Phasianotrochus sp.)
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart

 

 

Shell necklace-making represents the most significant cultural tradition of Tasmanian Aboriginal women, one of few customary practices that has continued without interruption from long before British colonisation of Van Diemen’s Land in 1803. This necklace is strung from the rarest and most highly prized of shells, the maireneer (Phasianotrochus sp.). Seasonally gathered directly from the sea, maireneer shells are painstakingly processed to remove the outer brown casing and reveal their pearlescent lustre before being pierced and strung. Eighteenth-century French explorers remarked on the iridescent beauty of maireneer shell necklaces, and the esteem in which they were held by their skilled makers. (Exhibition text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne showing Thomas Bock’s paintings John Robertson 1850 (top left); Mrs William Robertson mid 1830s (bottom left); Jessie Robertson 1850 (top right); and Captain William Robertson 1830s (bottom right) all oil on canvas, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide Mrs Mary Overton Gift Fund 1996
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Sentenced to transportation for fourteen years, Thomas Bock arrived in Hobart in 1824. He was already successful as an engraver in Birmingham so was put to work by government officials, engraving bank notes for the Bank of Van Diemen’s Land, stationery and illustrations for locally printed publications. Following his pardon, he was kept busy with painting commissions. His elegant and flattering portraits, executed in the grand Georgian manner fashionable in England, were greatly prized by colonists. In addition to painting these likenesses, Bock is believed to have photographed Captain Robertson, his wife and their son William junior in the early 1850s. (Exhibition text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with at centre, Hamilton Inn Sofa c. 1825
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Unknown, (Tasmania)
Hamilton Inn Sofa
c. 1825
Red Cedar (Toona ciliata), Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus sp.), pearwood, Mahogany, metal (steel and brass fittings), horsehair, wool, cotton
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart
Purchased for the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery by Federal Group with the assistance of the Art Foundation of Tasmania, 2005

 

 

This sofa is believed to be one of the earliest pieces of Tasmanian-made furniture. It is characteristically austere and reflects the Greek Revival taste popular in Britain during the Regency period, relying on the discipline of its refined line and silhouette for effect with ornamentation restricted to geometric motifs. Significantly, it has only been subject to repairs to stabilise the upholstery and framework, meaning it is in near original condition, rare for colonial furniture of this type. Usually, upholstery of this age has been replaced multiple times due to daily wear and tear and changing tastes in home furnishings. (Exhibition text)

 

Little is known of the sofa’s provenance before the late 19th century, when it entered the Sonners family of Hamilton – residents of the original Hamilton Inn from 1912 until the 1990s. Its earliest confirmed owner was Albert Sonners (1860 – 1935). The sofa’s maker, their client and the circumstances of production – including the date of manufacture – remain the subject of ongoing research.

However, it appears likely that the sofa was made during the 1820s, when wealthy colonists started to build large houses of the kind implied by the scale of the Hamilton Inn sofa. The sofa’s ambitious design would have been the height of fashion in the first decade of the 19th century, and is typical of the then fashionable, Greek-revival style. Pattern books became increasingly important as sources of ideas and promulgators of fashions from the late eighteenth century.

Thomas Hope’s (1769-1831) Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, published in 1807, was the first to promote the Greek-revival style and may have indirectly influenced the design of the Hamilton Inn sofa. The double-ended sofa – with scrolled arms and ‘sabre’ legs – displays an aesthetic that is restrained and geometric, consisting of shaped and relieved panels, reeding and tablets of decorative veneers.

The apparent simplicity emphasises the sofa’s elegant, curved and sweeping profile. Structural components made in Tasmanian hardwoods are disguised by either the upholstery or by cedar panels that also serve to disguise the attaching points for the upholstery. Ultimately, the design and scale of the sofa records the rapid transmission of British fashions to the new island colony, as well as the early presence of highly skilled furniture makers in Tasmania.

Text from the ABC Radio Hobart website

 

In November 2005, an unrestored red cedar couch discovered in a Tasmanian shed came up for auction in Hobart. The owner of the couch only wanted to make enough money to mend a fence. Instead, the couch sold at a drama-fuelled auction for more than $310,000.

At the auction, the couch was initially knocked down for $48,000 but a bidder protested and the auctioneer was forced to reopen the bidding. When the new round of bidding finally ceased, the sale was one of the highest prices ever paid for a piece of Australian furniture.

The couch was purchased by the Federal Group, a local Tasmanian hospitality and tourism group, with the assistance of the Art Foundation of Tasmania. It donated it to Hobart’s Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. …

When the gallery received the couch it faced a dilemma. The timber finish and upholstery were in poor condition and there was discussion over whether it should be restored or left untouched. After much consultation with experts, it was decided to improve the appearance without compromising the historical significance.

“It has the original upholstery, which is very unusual for this age,” says Hughes. “The finish and the wood are also pretty much original. So this makes it an extremely rare historical document, as well as a fantastic object.

“It has survived with more information than almost any other piece of colonial furniture. It has much to tell us about craftsmanship, materials and design in the early years of the Australian colonies.”

Text from The Australian website

 

Mary Morton Allport (England 1806 - Australia 1895, Australia from 1830) 'John Glover' c. 1832

 

Mary Morton Allport (England 1806 – Australia 1895, Australia from 1830)
John Glover
c. 1832
Watercolour on ivory, Huon Pine veneer, gilt
11.8 x 9.3 cm
Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, Hobart

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Frederick Woodhouse Senior (England 1820 – Australia 1909, Australia from 1858)
Owner, trainer, horse and jockey (installation view)
1858
Oil on canvas
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Elder Bequest Fund 1980
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation views of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with at bottom right, Benjamin Duterrau’s (England 1761 – Australia 1851, Australia from 1832) oil on canvas Tasmanian Aboriginal 1837; and Thomas Bock’s Woureddy [Wurati]: Native of Bruné Island, Van Diemen’s Land c. 1837 third from left, botttom
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Tasmanian Aboriginal People

Between the establishment of the settlement of Hobart in 1804 and the early 1820s the British government granted to settlers just over 100,000 acres of land already occupied by Tasmanian Aboriginal people. By the beginning of the 1830s more than fourteen times this acreage had been taken over by Europeans. During these decades, Tasmanian Aboriginal communities were ravaged by introduced diseases and famine as their hunting grounds disappeared, and were involved in violent clashes with the settler population. These conflicts escalated during the 1820s and came to be known as the Black War.

In 1830, George Augustus Robinson was engaged in the so-called Friendly Mission, which sought to make peaceful contact with the Tasmanian Aboriginal people remaining on Country. With the assistance of groups of Aboriginal individuals, he persuaded those still living freely on the land to relocate to the Wybalenna settlement on Flinders Island. By 1835, many of the Tasmanian Aboriginal population lived permanently on Flinders Island, waiting to return to Country as they had been promised. Their numbers dwindled rapidly and in 1847 the remaining forty-seven individuals were forced to move to a former penal settlement at Oyster Cove, until the site was closed in 1874. Their traditions have lived on through Tasmanian Aboriginal people living outside of the official Wybalenna settlement in other coloniser and fishing communities. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Benjamin Duterrau (England 1761 - Australia 1851, Australia from 1832) 'Tasmanian Aboriginal' 1837

 

Benjamin Duterrau (England 1761 – Australia 1851, Australia from 1832)
Tasmanian Aboriginal
1837
Oil on canvas on composition board
National Library of Australia, Canberra
Presented by Mrs A. M. Barker 1936
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Benjamin Duterrau arrived in Van Diemen’s Land at the age of sixty-five as a free settler. He had planned to take up the position of drawing and music master at Ellinthrop Hall in Hobart, a fashionable school for ladies; however, this post was instead taken up by Henry Mundy. He lectured often on the importance of the fine arts in the developing colony after his arrival. Working predominantly in portraiture and occasionally in landscape, he is best known for producing the first Australian history paintings, which recorded the so-called ‘conciliation’ between Chief Protector of the Aborigines George Augustus Robinson and the Tasmanian Aboriginal people. (Exhibition text)

 

Thomas Bock (England 1790 - Australia 1855, Australia from 1824) 'Woureddy [Wurati]: Native of Bruné Island, Van Diemen's Land' c. 1837

 

Thomas Bock (England 1790 – Australia 1855, Australia from 1824)
Woureddy [Wurati]: Native of Bruné Island, Van Diemen’s Land
c. 1837
From the album Sketches in New South Wales and Tasmania by John Thompson, 1827–32
watercolour
28.3 x 21.0 cm
Dixson Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Bequeathed by Sir William Dixson, 1952

 

 

Between 1830 and 1834 Thomas Bock completed several watercolour portraits of Tasmanian Aboriginal people, many of whom were associated with George Augustus Robinson’s so-called ‘friendly mission’. Commissioned by Robinson himself, these sensitively rendered images were so admired for their accuracy that Bock was asked to make several duplicate copies by patrons Lady Jane Franklin and Reverend Henry Dowling. This group derives from one of these subsequent sets. The subject, Wurati of Bruny Island, was the husband of Trukanini and accompanied Robinson throughout Van Diemen’s Land in the early 1830s, and through Port Phillip between 1839 and 1842. He died just prior to returning to Flinders Island in 1842. (Exhibition text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne showing Ludwig Becker’s Aborigines of Tasmania 1852
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Ludwig Becker (Germany 1808 - Australia 1861, Australia from 1851) 'Aborigines of Tasmania: Woannadie, young woman' 1852

 

Ludwig Becker (Germany 1808 – Australia 1861, Australia from 1851)
Aborigines of Tasmania: Woannadie, young woman
1852
Watercolour
Pictures Collection, State Library Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased 1960

 

Ludwig Becker (Germany 1808 - Australia 1861, Australia from 1851) 'Aborigines of Tasmania: Naplomata, grandmother' 1852

 

Ludwig Becker (Germany 1808 – Australia 1861, Australia from 1851)
Aborigines of Tasmania: Naplomata, grandmother
1852
Watercolour
Pictures Collection, State Library Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased 1960

 

 

Ludwig Becker arrived in Launceston in 1851 and remained in Van Diemen’s Land for a year before relocating to Melbourne. During this time he produced small but poignant portraits of Tasmanian Aboriginal women living at Oyster Cove, south of Hobart. In 1847, the survivors of Wybalenna had returned to the mainland. Of the some 200 who were removed to Bass Strait, only forty-seven returned. By the time of Becker’s visit, close to a third of their population had died, and by the end of the decade approximately twelve people remained. (Exhibition text)

 

Douglas T. Kilburn. 'No title (Group of Koori men)' c. 1847

 

Douglas T. Kilburn
No title (Group of Koori men)
c. 1847
Daguerreotype; leather, wood, velvet, brass
7.5 x 6.5 cm (image) 9.2 x 7.9 x 1.7 cm (case) (closed)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased from Admission Funds, 1983

 

Douglas T. Kilburn. 'No title (Group of Koori men)' c. 1847 (detail)

 

Douglas T. Kilburn
No title (Group of Koori men) (detail)
c. 1847
Daguerreotype; leather, wood, velvet, brass
7.5 x 6.5 cm (image) 9.2 x 7.9 x 1.7 cm (case) (closed)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased from Admission Funds, 1983

 

 

As a way of attracting attention to his newly opened business Douglas Kilburn took at least eight daguerreotypes of Aboriginal people in the lands of the Kulin nation. As a result of the nineteenth-century belief that the Aboriginal people were doomed to annihilation, Kilburn intended the images as ethnographic studies rather than individual portraits; nevertheless, his unnamed sitters project a proud and dignified presence. His photographs were popular with local artists such as Eugene von Guérard and John Skinner Prout, who copied them, and they also reached an international audience when they were used as the basis for wood engravings in William Westgarth’s Australia Felix in 1848, Nordisk Penning-Magazin in 1849 and the Illustrated London News in 1850. (Exhibition text)

 

 

The Port Phillip District

In 1835, Melbourne was established on the Country of the Kulin nation on the northern bank of Birrarung, the ‘river of mists and shadows’. Contact between Indigenous peoples and European explorers and raiding groups of sealers had begun prior to the arrival of hopeful colonists from Van Diemen’s Land. They were soon followed by John Pascoe Fawkner and John Batman, each leading separate parties of settlers keen to secure acreage on the fertile lands found in what was soon to be known as the Port Phillip District.

In the early years Melbourne went through a period of rapid development, quickly becoming a progressive provincial town. In 1839 a visitor noted: ‘When I was here three years ago there were but two houses of any note whatever … Now I find a town occupying an area of nearly a mile square, on which are some hundreds of houses, and many of them spacious and well-built edifices’. In tandem with the settlement of Melbourne, pastoral expansion devastated Aboriginal communities already severely affected by disease. Dispossessed of their traditional lands and forced from Country and the food sources that had long sustained them, the remaining populations faced starvation. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Unknown (New South Wales / Victorian Aboriginal active 19th century) 'Club' 19th century (installation view)

 

Unknown (New South Wales / Victorian Aboriginal active 19th century)
Club
19th century
Wood
Koorie Heritage Trust, Melbourne
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Douglas T. Kilburn. 'No title (Group of Koori women)' 1847

 

Douglas T. Kilburn
No title (Group of Koori women)
1847
Daguerreotype; glass, brass, gold
6.6 x 5.4 cm (image)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1999

 

Douglas T. Kilburn. 'No title (Group of Koori women)' 1847 (detail)

 

Douglas T. Kilburn
No title (Group of Koori women) (detail)
1847
Daguerreotype; glass, brass, gold
6.6 x 5.4 cm (image)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1999

 

Henry Gritten (England 1818 - Australia 1873, Australia from 1853) 'Melbourne from the south bank of the Yarra' 1856

 

Henry Gritten (England 1818 – Australia 1873, Australia from 1853)
Melbourne from the south bank of the Yarra
1856
Watercolour over traces of pencil
(25.6 x 35.8) (image)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of John H. Connell, 1914

 

Ludwig Becker (Germany 1808 - Australia 1861, Australia from 1851) 'Melbourne from across the Yarra' 1854

 

Ludwig Becker (Germany 1808 – Australia 1861, Australia from 1851)
Melbourne from across the Yarra
1854
Tempera and watercolour on gesso on cardboard
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
V. K. Burmeister Bequest Fund and South Australian Government Grant 1990

 

Robert Dowling (England 1827-86, Australia 1834-57, 1884-86) 'Jane Sceales with daughters, Mary Jane and Hilda' c. 1856 (installation view)

 

Robert Dowling (England 1827-86, Australia 1834-57, 1884-86)
Jane Sceales with daughters, Mary Jane and Hilda (installation view)
c. 1856
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 2016. Acquired through family of Ella Lewis (nee Hood), granddaughter of Jane Hood (nee Sceales)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Jane Sceales and her daughters lived at Merrang, the pastoral run next to Minjah, owned by Joseph Ware. This is one of two known mourning portraits commissioned by Jane after the death of her husband Adolphus Sceales in 1855, produced while Robert Dowling was staying and working at Minjah. Scottish-born Jane is depicted in mourning dress, a teal and black tartan bow knotted elegantly at her collar. The skirt of her elder daughter, Mary Jane, is trimmed in the same fabric. By the close of 1856, Jane had remarried Robin Hood, becoming the matriarch of one of the most prominent families of the Western District. (Exhibition text)

 

Robert Dowling (England 1827-86, Australia 1834-57, 1884-86) 'Masters George, William and Miss Harriet Ware with the Aborigine Jamie Ware' 1856 (installation view)

 

Robert Dowling (England 1827-86, Australia 1834-57, 1884-86)
Masters George, William and Miss Harriet Ware with the Aborigine Jamie Ware (installation view)
1856
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Eleanor M. Borrow Bequest, 2007
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Robert Dowling (England 1827-86, Australia 1834-57, 1884-86) 'Masters George, William and Miss Harriet Ware with the Aborigine Jamie Ware' 1856

 

Robert Dowling (England 1827-86, Australia 1834-57, 1884-86)
Masters George, William and Miss Harriet Ware with the Aborigine Jamie Ware
1856
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Eleanor M. Borrow Bequest, 2007

 

 

In the late 1830s the young brothers Jeremiah, Joseph and John Ware, the eldest just twenty years of age, had played a major role in the settlement of the Western District in Victoria. By 1856 they were established and notable figures in the colony and had become significant patrons of the fine arts.

Robert Dowling’s family portrait Masters George, William, and Miss Harriet Ware and the Aborigine Jamie Ware is set in the grounds of pastoralist Joseph Ware’s property, Minjah. The group is headed by the eldest son, George, who bears a staff, the Biblical symbol of leadership often associated with Moses. To the right sits his younger brother, William, on the left is their sister Harriet and the Mopor youth from Spring Creek who took the family name, Jamie Ware. The portrait has remained with the descendants of the Ware family since its commission and is a poignant depiction of interracial accord.

There is an obvious affection between Jamie and Harriet: he reclines comfortably while the young girl drapes her arm casually over his leg. The absence of Jamie’s employers – the children’s parents, John and Barbara Ware, gives added resonance to the work, revealing the trust and intimate position Jamie held in the family. The depiction of the youth in European dress rather than as an anthropological study expresses the family’s concern for harmonious relations with Indigenous people.

Jamie’s inclusion is also symbolic of the Ware family’s awareness of the traumatic post-contact history experienced by Indigenous Australians, an understanding that was not generally shared in mid-nineteenth-century Victoria. By the 1850s it was reported that Tasmania’s Indigenous population had been decimated, which would have been a significant issue for Dowling and the Wares who had all migrated from the southern-most colony. Dowling painted a number of works that were intended as memorials, such as the NGV’s Tasmanian Aborigines, 1856, and Warrnambool Art Gallery’s Minjah in the old time, 1856. While these works look to the past and convey a sense of mourning, the Ware family portrait looks positively towards a more harmonious future and therefore is a transformative work to enter the NGV’s nineteenth-century Australian collection.

Masters George, William, and Miss Harriet Ware and the Aborigine Jamie Ware joins a number of works in the NGV collection that share a Ware family provenance. Joseph Ware commissioned six works from Dowling between 1855 and 1856, and the NGV collection contains works acquired by his younger brother, John Ware, that were donated in 2004 as part of the Joseph Brown Collection. These include Eugène von Guérard’s Spring in the valley of the Mitta Mitta with the Bogong Ranges in the distance, 1863, and the homestead portrait of John Ware’s Yalla-y-Poora, 1864.

Dowling continued to receive Ware family patronage after he left Australia in 1857; his portrait Miss Annie Ware, 1882, the daughter of John Ware, being commissioned during the sitter’s European travels.

Humphrey Clegg, Assistant Curator, Australian Art, NGV (in 2007)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with at centre middle, Martha Berkeley’s oil on metal Georgina, Emily and Augusta Rose c. 1848
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

The Province of South Australia 1836

As early as 1829 the development of a convict‑free colony, home to settlers and migrants from Britain, was mooted. Seven years later, with regal approval, the Province of South Australia was officially proclaimed. Nine ships carrying free settlers to the colony set sail from England in 1836. They landed at Kangaroo Island and Holdfast Bay and finally settled on the banks of the Torrens River, where the township of Adelaide was established. With a number of trained artists among the early colonists, South Australia rapidly secured a position comparable to that of Hobart as a sophisticated centre for the visual arts.

These artists documented the earliest years of the colony and the first settlers. In 1845, Australia’s first solo exhibition was held by George French Angas, and two years later Adelaide artists held a group exhibition in the new colony. The discovery of gold in Victoria led to an exodus to the eastern colonies, slowing but not halting activity in South Australia.

The Province of South Australia was established on the land of the Kaurna people; the South Australia Act of 1834 included a guarantee of the rights of ‘any Aboriginal Natives’ and their descendants to lands they ‘now actually enjoy’. Despite these worthy ambitions, colonial expansion did ultimately dispossess and marginalise Aboriginal people. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Alexander Schramm (Germany 1813 - Australia 1864, Australia from 1849) 'A scene in South Australia' c. 1850 (installation view)

 

Alexander Schramm (Germany 1813 – Australia 1864, Australia from 1849)
A scene in South Australia (installation view)
c. 1850
Oil on canvas
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
South Australian Government Grant 1982
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Martha Berkeley (England 1813 - Australia 1899, Australia from 1837) 'Georgina, Emily and Augusta Rose' c. 1848

 

Martha Berkeley (England 1813 – Australia 1899, Australia from 1837)
Georgina, Emily and Augusta Rose
c. 1848
Oil on metal
36.4 x 39.5 cm
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
M.J.M. Carter AO Collection 2007
Given in memory of Di Townsend, Betty McIlwham and fellow Gallery Guides’ education programs for children

 

 

Martha Berkeley’s painting practice encompassed landscapes and views of the infant settlement, flower studies and portraiture. She depicted her family on several occasions and her portraits of her husband Charles, sister Theresa, brother-in-law and children are among her finest paintings. This charming group portrait presents her three daughters against the backdrop of their home in Adelaide. Berkeley adopts a format typical of Regency depictions of children; the youthful trio are happily engaged in the wholesome activity of posy-making, with the eldest, Augusta Rose, looking towards the viewer, as though appealing to them to join in. (Exhibition text)

 

S.T. Gill (England 1819 - Australia 1880, Australia from 1839) 'Port Adelaide looking north along Commercial Road' 1847

 

S.T. Gill (England 1819 – Australia 1880, Australia from 1839)
Port Adelaide looking north along Commercial Road
1847
Watercolour
20.3 x 32.0 cm
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Morgan Thomas Bequest Fund 1923

 

S.T. Gill. 'Country NW of tableland, Aug. 22 1846' 1846

 

S.T. Gill (England 1819 – Australia 1880, Australia from 1839)
Country NW of tableland, Aug. 22 1846
1846
Watercolour
19.0 x 30.7 cm
National Library of Australia, Canberra
Gift of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to the Australian Government, 1956

 

 

Along with government-supported expeditions, individuals also sought to discover new stock routes and pastures. In 1846 John Ainsworth Horrocks organised one such venture to explore beyond Lake Torrens, and S. T. Gill volunteered to accompany the party, with goats for food and a pack camel, named Harry. The trip ended abruptly when Horrocks accidentally shot himself at a desolate salt lake – he died later at his property in the Clare Valley. Gill subsequently painted a series of ‘faithful scenic representations’ documenting their tragic journey and exhibited them in Adelaide in 1847, providing the public with an accurate indication of South Australia’s dry interior. (Exhibition text)

 

George French Angas. 'Encounter Bay looking south' 1844

 

George French Angas (England 1822-86, Australia 1844-45, 1850-63)
Encounter Bay looking south
1844
Watercolour
26.2 x 35.9 cm
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Bequest of J. Angas Johnson 1902

 

 

George French Angas was the eldest son of one of the founding members of the South Australian Land Company, formed to develop a settlement in South Australia, and came to Australia as an experienced naturalist, artist and author. He travelled widely throughout South Australia, to the Murray River and down to Lake Coorong, sketching the countryside, and the customs and dwellings of the Aboriginal people he met, as well as spending time in New Zealand. Angas exhibited his watercolours in Adelaide and Sydney and upon his return to London, where his book South Australia Illustrated, with impressive full-page coloured lithographs, was published. (Exhibition text)

 

 

Melbourne 1851-61

The township of Melbourne grew steadily as migrants from Britain and other European countries sought economic opportunities and political and religious freedom. In 1851, the Port Phillip District became an independent colony and was named Victoria in honour of the Queen. The town’s fortunes were further transformed that year when gold was discovered. Victoria was the richest source of gold in Australia, and consequently experienced the greatest levels of growth and change. The population exploded as enthusiastic and optimistic prospectors poured in from around the world with the hope of making their fortunes. Despite enormous social turmoil and environmental destruction, gold propelled Melbourne into an unprecedented phase of expansion and prosperity.

This had a profound impact on the arts and cultural life in colonial Australia. The desire to replicate the cultural institutions of European capitals reached new heights and wealth from gold enabled these aspirations to be realised, with the establishment of a university, library and museum. In 1861, in a moment of great significance and pride, the Museum of Art – Australia’s first art museum, later known as the National Gallery of Victoria – opened at the Melbourne Public Library on Swanston Street. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with to the left in the bottom image, George Cavenagh’s Glorious News! Separation at last! 1850; and at centre top in the same image, Henry Burn’s oil on canvas Swanston Street from the Bridge 1861
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

George Cavenagh (editor and publisher) (India 1808 - Australia 1869, Australia from 1825) 'Glorious News! Separation at last!' Issued with the Melbourne Morning Herald 11 November 1850 (installation view)

 

George Cavenagh (editor and publisher) (India 1808 – Australia 1869, Australia from 1825)
Glorious News! Separation at last! (installation view)
Issued with the Melbourne Morning Herald
11 November 1850
Letterpress on buff paper
Pictures Collection, State Library Victoria, Melbourne
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

From the establishment of Melbourne in 1835, its colonial inhabitants campaigned for it to be a separate colony, rather than a distant district within New South Wales, controlled by the Sydney-based governor and legislative council. A public campaign began in 1839 and petitions were repeatedly sent to London. After many delays, on 11 November 1850 news was received that independence was to be granted. A jubilant population celebrated with fireworks, parades, balls and a three-day public holiday. Further festivities were held when the colony was formally proclaimed on 1 July 1851, and the first parliament sat in November of that year. (Exhibition text)

 

Henry Burn (England c. 1807 - Australia 1884, Australia from 1853, died 1884) 'Swanston Street from the Bridge' 1861

 

Henry Burn (England c. 1807 – Australia 1884, Australia from 1853, died 1884)
Swanston Street from the Bridge
1861
Oil on canvas
71.8 x 92.2 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of John H. Connell, 1914

 

 

Painted just twenty-six years after foundation, Henry Burn’s view of young Melbourne looks north from the Yarra towards the centre of the city. It reveals a number of identifiable landmarks including the original St Paul’s Church; the coroner’s office and Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, at what is now Federation Square; and Johnson’s Bridge Hotel, now the Young & Jackson Hotel. (Exhibition text)

 

Unknown, Australia. 'Dress' c. 1855

 

Unknown, Australia
Dress (see installation photo below right)
c. 1855
Cotton, silk, metal, mother-of-pearl, baleen
152.0 cm (centre back), 34.5 cm (waist, flat)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Michael Parker, 1983

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with at centre right, Eugene von Guérard’s oil on canvas Ferntree Gully in the Dandenong Ranges 1857
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Eugene von Guérard. 'Ferntree Gully in the Dandenong Ranges' 1857

 

Eugene von Guérard (Austria 1811 – England 1901, Italy 1830-38, Australia 1852-82, Germany 1838-52, 1882-91, England from 1891)
Ferntree Gully in the Dandenong Ranges
1857
Oil on canvas
92.0 x 138.0 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of Dr Joseph Brown AO OBE 1975

 

 

Within five years of arriving in Victoria to try his luck on the Ballarat goldfields, Eugene von Guérard had undertaken several trips to sketch remote wilderness regions of Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia. These meticulous studies were translated into sublime panoramic vistas of volcanic plains and mountain ranges, and primordial bushland views, which melded his romantic European sensibility with scientific intensity. In early 1857 he returned a second time to the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne and later completed this scene in his studio. This celebration of nature was an immediate local success and became an important image that was reproduced in subsequent drawings and engravings. (Exhibition text)

 

 

Daniel Thomas discusses Eugene Von Guérard’s Ferntree Gully in the Dandenong Ranges

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with at centre Sofa 1840s
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Unknown (Victoria / South Australia) 'Sofa' 1840s

 

Unknown (Victoria / South Australia)
Sofa
1840s
Red Cedar (Toona ciliata), upholstery, (other materials)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Michael and Traudl Moon, 1996

 

 

The success of German immigrants in South Australia saw the establishment of the German Immigration Committee in Melbourne in 1849 to encourage their settlement in Victoria. By the close of the decade, German immigrants had settled near Geelong, establishing Germantown, now the suburb of Grovedale, and by the 1850s were expanding into the Western District. It is likely this sofa was produced by German makers in either of these South Australian or Victorian communities. Its sweeping curves recall the architectural forms of the German Biedermeier style, but its lines and elaborate carved ornamentation reveal more Classical influences. (Exhibition text)

 

 

Further images

Tommy McRae (Kwat Kwat/Wiradjuri) (c. 1836-1901) 'Ceremony; hunting and fishing' 1860

 

Tommy McRae (Kwat Kwat/Wiradjuri) (c. 1836-1901)
Ceremony; hunting and fishing
1860
Pen and ink on blue paper
Pictures Collection, State Library Victoria, Melbourne
Accessioned c. 1931

 

 

As a consequence of colonisation Tommy McRae created cross-cultural pen and ink drawings on paper as a dialogue with the colonisers and a means of recording a culture often subjected to change and silencing. On a single sheet, McRae creates a holistic picture of his rich culture, which includes two distinct corroborees, a eucalypt with bird perched atop its foliage and a hunting story of four emus being stalked by men in camouflage while another spears a large fish. Two lines of male dancers are freely sketched in silhouette upon Country, indicated by a light tangle of lines. (Exhibition text)

 

Tommy McRae (Kwat Kwat/Wiradjuri) (c. 1836-1901) Page from 'Sketchbook' c. 1891 Sketchboo

Tommy McRae (Kwat Kwat/Wiradjuri) (c. 1836-1901) Page from 'Sketchbook' c. 1891 Sketchboo

 

Tommy McRae (Kwat Kwat/Wiradjuri) (c. 1836-1901)
Pages from Sketchbook
c. 1891
Sketchbook: pen and blue ink, 26 pages, paper and cardboard cover, stitched binding
24.4 x 31.2 cm (image and sheet) 24.4 x 31.2 cm (page) 24.4 x 31.2 x 1.0 cm (closed) 24.4 x 62.4 x 0.5 cm (open)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 2001
Purchased with the assistance of Ian Hicks AM, John Higgins and two anonymous donors, 2008

 

 

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Federation Square
Corner of Russell and 
Flinders Streets, Melbourne

Opening hours:
10am – 5pm
Closed Mondays

National Gallery of Victoria website

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16
Jan
18

Book review: ‘The Lumen Seed’ by Judith Crispin (2016)

January 2018

Publisher: Daylight Books

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers should be aware that the posting on this book contains images and names of people who may have since passed away.

 

 

Judith Crispin. 'Sonya Napaljarri Cook Painting' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Sonya Napaljarri Cook Painting
Warnayaka Arts Centre, Lajamanu Community NT, December 2015

 

Judith Crispin. 'Tabra Nakamarra's Puppy' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Tabra Nakamarra’s Puppy
Lajamanu Community NT, June 2015

 

 

Truth and consequence in red dirt country

Australia has a long tradition of social documentary photography, dating back to the late nineteenth century. From Fred Kruger’s photographs of the Aboriginal community at Coranderrk in the 1870-80s through, variously but not exclusively:

Frank Hurley‘s photographs of the First World War, Antarctic exploration, Aboriginal communities and Australian industry

F. Oswald Barnett and his photographs of the slums of Melbourne in the 1930s

Charles P. Mountford (1890-1976) was an ethnographer and photographer, working from the 1930s-1960s who “showed a keen interest in and respect for Aboriginal culture, a fact that is evident in his archive. Although peppered with the vernacular and attitudes of the times, Mountford’s writing, and more tellingly his photographs, are indicative of his belief that Aboriginal life was richer and more complex than most white Australians conceded.” (State Library of South Australia)

Mervyn Bishop (born 1945), followed in 1974, an Australian news and documentary photographer whose work combines journalistic and art photography. Joining The Sydney Morning Herald as a cadet in 1962 or 1963, he was the first Aboriginal Australian to work on a metropolitan daily newspaper and one of the first Aboriginal Australians to become a professional photographer. Focusing on Indigenous self-determination, Bishop’s work “covered the major developments in Aboriginal communities throughout Australia, including the historical moment in 1975 when the (then) Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, poured a handful of earth back into the hand of Vincent Lingiari, Gurindji elder and traditional land owner. This image – representing the Australian government’s recognition of Aboriginal land rights – became an icon of the land rights movement and Australian photography.” (Art Gallery of New South Wales)

Harold Cazneaux and Max Dupain‘s photographs of Australian life from the 1920-1980s

Jim Fitzpatrick and his Drouin series from WW2

Rennie Ellis‘ photographs of celebrity and Melbourne life

William Yang‘s photographs exploring issues of cultural and sexual identity

Female photographers of the 1960s-90s, such as Micky Allan, Sue Ford and Carol Jerrems who all crossed over into art photography

Robert McFarlane (1960s onwards) who specialises in social issues

John F. Williams who photographed Sydney in the 1970s

Jeff Carter who photographed all around Australia from the 1950s onwards

Ian North and Gerrit Fokkema who photographed Canberra in the 1980s

Joyce Evans (1980s onwards) who took important portraits of a diverse cross-section of Australian intelligentsia and personalities and documented Australian country towns and events for the National Library of Australia

Glenn Sloggett who photographed Australian suburbia with a startling mix of warmth and melancholy from the 1990s onwards

More recently, the war photographs of °SOUTH members such as Tim Page, Stephen Dupont, David Dare Parker, Jack Picone and Michael Coyne

Trent Parke who is the only Australian member of the Magnum Photo Agency, whose work moves beyond the strictly documentary to sit between fiction and reality, offering an emotional and psychological portrait of family life and Australia that is poetic and often darkly humorous

And Juno Gemes Indigenous social documentary photography, who documents the changing social landscape of Australia

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Unlike America, where social documentary photographers are well known, hardly a name from the above list (save perhaps Max Dupain and possibly Frank Hurley) would be recognised by a wider Australian public and there is little evidence or acknowledgement of their work in Australia. I believe that this is because social documentary photography has never been heavily promoted in this country and that this type of photography is a slice of many people’s work without becoming the driving force behind their oeuvre.

As my friend and curator Nick Henderson observes, “Perhaps the lack of visibility is in part due to many of the social documentary photographers undertaking work for the various state libraries, who regularly commission work documenting place – sometimes external, but also staff photographers – whose work is then not exhibited: many of the institutional galleries haven’t devoted much time to displaying and promoting that work.” While there may have been social documentary photographers in each country town and embedded within federal and state institutions, their work never seems to reach the audience it deserves.

 

And that is the true

Into this amorphous arena comes a brilliant book Sydney based poet, photographer and composer Judith Crispin titled The Lumen Seed (Daylight Books 2016), a book of that addresses the stories of the Warlpiri people of Lajamanu through conversation, poetry, drawings and photographs, a book that should be compulsory reading for all Australians.

This smallish book (in size, 23.5cm wide by 15cm high) of 120 pages has good strong boards, excellent typography, nicely weighted paper and feels solid in the hand. The book is well printed, although some of the highlights of the photographs have gone missing in action. The layout of the images and text is engaging, challenging the reader to comprehend, contemplate and consider what is being shown and spoken to them. Use of negative space, as can be seen in the example pages below, is excellent. The reader does not feel overwhelmed by comatose verbiage, but empowered when listening to the stories, proposed: “This book is about magic. Not the magic of Kabbalists, Theosophists, or conjurers, not Crowley’s magick with a k, not the magic of the New Age or Western religion – but magic that describes the world hidden inside this world, a world seen only by Aboriginal elders and the dying.” (Judith Crispin, Introduction, p. 12)

As Crispin states, this book is not a book of photojournalism and is the most subjective it can be, the photographs growing out of her love for this community. The multi-dimensional photo essay, for that is what it is in more traditional terms, represents some of the views and customs of the Warlpiri people and for Crispin, her journey started in the centre of Australia’s Anglophile government, Canberra, and ended at Wolfe Creek Crater, birthplace of the rainbow snakes, the Warnayarra, which underpin all Australian Aboriginal cultures. The peoples of this ancient culture speak to the earth, they tend it and understand it; they believe in the deep magic of the landscape, and strengthen the land through gardening and the trees through song. They speak to the spirits of the waterholes and have a deep respect for the spirit of the animals that inhabit the land. “The deep love that Warlpiri people have for the landscape, its mountains and waterholes, is almost incomprehensible for white people.” (Juno Gemes, Foreword, p. 9)

I’m British and I have been here in Australia since 1986 and I have never understood the non-relationship Australia has with its Indigenous people. Growing up on a farm for the first twelve years of my life in England gives me some understanding of a life lived well on the land. We were working class poor, my mother having to boil water on a stove so us kids could have a bath in a copper on the kitchen room floor; and we lived on what we could shoot from the land – pigeons, pheasants, rabbits and hares – and we were acutely aware of the providence and blessings of nature for our sustenance. A totally different connection to land than an Aboriginal one, but a connection none the less, as I found out when I visited the old farm on a recent visit to the UK in August. Walking up the cart path where I had played as a kid brought all the magic rushing back… the flowers, the forest, the trees, the animals and the earth.

Therefore, when I read of the white man’s abuse of the traditional lands of the Aboriginal people I am appalled. If you read the extract from Five Threnodies for Maralinga printed below, you begin to understand the pain and anguish of these people, killed by the atomic cloud of over 7 major tests and 700 minor trials involving plutonium, uranium, and beryllium at the Maralinga site which occurred between 1956 and 1963, part of the Woomera Prohibited Area in South Australia and about 800 kilometres north-west of Adelaide. “In 1948, Warlpiri people were forcibly relocated almost 600 kilometers from their spiritual homeland to Hooker Creek, now Lajamanu, in Gurindji country. Old people, afraid to live among Gurindji ancestors and spirits, tried to walk back to Yuendumu but were rounded up and returned.” (p. 45)

This beautiful, powerful and deeply personal book tells some of their stories. It saddens me beyond belief that these wonderful people have been estranged and displaced from their traditional lands; decimated, killed, and abused; have been exposed to nuclear radiation, poverty, and untold harm and deprivation, both physical and mental. That they endure is a testament to their courage and culture. Juno Gemes observes that, “Crispin’s images are filled with compassion and tenderness. This is not an easy work… The Lumen Seed is a tough and powerful work in photographs, narrative texts, drawings, and poems it sings stories off the Warlpiri at Lajamuna at five minutes to midnight.” (p. 9)

The book needs to be tough to tell the true. But through poetry, love and light a new cosmology emerges that brings hope for a better future. Truth and consequence in red dirt country.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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Many thankx to Myrtille Beauvert, Daylight Books and the artist for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

The Lumen Seed by Judith Crispin (Daylight Books), a cultural dialogue that is taking place before a backdrop of offences against the Australian continent, as well as a history of systematic discrimination against Indigenous peoples on the part of the country’s white population.

 

 

“Yeah, it make me real sad and cry for my country. Because God bin put me there, God put my people there. Why someone could move us, because of his power, because of his idea? Cutting off God’s power, God’s idea here. God’s word, God’s light… and that is the true. Cut off like this electric wire, if you cut him off, like that.”

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Jerry Jangala, senior Warlpiri elder and Law man from Lajamanu in the Tanami Desert

 

“The Lumen Seed is a tough and powerful work. In photographs, narrative texts, drawings, and poems it sings stories of the Warlpiri at Lajamanu at five minutes to midnight. Who will hear, who will see, who will act?

Judith Crispin’s experience echoes mine 40 years earlier, although I could not always get back to the same teachers. We belong to a long photographic tradition. It is the tradition of Tina Modotti and Josef Koudelka – a generation of documentary photographers who believe fervently that if you show people what is actually happening in the world, they will understand and be moved to demand change. Activist social documentary photography has always been defined by this passionate subjective belief in democracy and action.”

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Juno Gemes, Introduction to The Lumen Seed, 2016

 

 

 

Judith Crispin. 'The Lumen Seed' cover

Judith Crispin. The Lumen Seed book cover

Judith Crispin. 'The Lumen Seed' p. 29

Judith Crispin. The Lumen Seed p. 29

Judith Crispin. 'The Lumen Seed' p. 32

Judith Crispin. The Lumen Seed p. 32

Judith Crispin. 'The Lumen Seed' p. 46

Judith Crispin. The Lumen Seed p. 46

Judith Crispin. 'The Lumen Seed' p. 55

Judith Crispin. The Lumen Seed p. 55

Judith Crispin. 'The Lumen Seed' p. 74

Judith Crispin. The Lumen Seed p. 74

 

 

 

 

Foreword: Five Minutes to Midnight

There is nothing like twilight in red dirt country – the soft crackling of fire warming your billycan as the Seven Sisters begin their dance across the night sky. Or the camaraderie around a campfire as people speak in their indigenous languages – the women making jokes about the day’s goings-on or about mistakes made in the intricate protocols of a Law you are learning, day by day. Everything that lives has meaning here. Upholding knowledge is a lifelong obligation for First Nation Custodians – not only in the present but into the future. How can we Australians know this land or our place in it, if not through relationship with our hosts, the Aboriginal people?

When inviting me to write this foreword, Judith Crispin explained her choice, saying, “You are uniquely positioned, as Australia’s premier and longest-serving photographer who has worked collaboratively with Aboriginal people in communities around the country making their culture and struggle for justice visible.” Truly, in both a professional and a practical way, I know the difficulties and the deep satisfactions of working in community. I understand the privileges of learning about the Law, the reciprocity of gratitude, and the obligation to stay true to the received teaching over a lifetime.

As a photographer of long experience, with friendships in Aboriginal communities, I know how everything depends on one’s openness to experience, on the give and take inside relationships that informs how one sees and feels. Photographers in this tradition work in slow time. You learn to move with the people, move within the rhythm of their days, within their country, their wind and sky. What is learned through these relationships can change how one sees forever. By invitation, we become messengers from the frontier of interpersonal experience, conveying urgent messages from our teachers and hosts.

Into this collaborative tradition of relational interpersonal documentary photography – which began with the work of committed photographers in Australia during the 1970s – now steps Judith Crispin with her important book about magic, knowledge, and history. She relates teachings of the Law men who adopted her, who gave her the skin name Nangala, a name that defines her relationship to everyone in the community. In this way, she is being “growed up,” learning how to see the universe according to Warlpiri Law.

“There is a particularly miraculous vision of the world that comes only with the diagnosis of serious illness. . . . Something is different now – because I know there is a secret world nested inside this one. I’ve seen it.”

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The Lumen Seed
opens onto an apocalyptic scene. A hardwood mulga tree, reaching for the sky, holds a placard: “The Lord’s Return is Near.” In Coober Pedy, a curved handmade house rendered in warm mid-tones is edged with the sign “Welcome to Nowhere.” Dusty desert roadscapes unfold into the giant sacred stones of Karlu Karlu. An emu wanders nonchalantly into a gas station. We’re in Emu Dreaming Country now, meeting Crispin’s traveling friends.

A UFO mural at the gas station resonates later in the book with stories of Wolfe Creek Crater, where the meteorite landed. In the Jukurrpa we are told two rainbow snakes created that country, way back at the beginning. UFOs “zipping around the trees” form part of our desert lore. Funky and surreal, these images are imbued with humour. The images that follow lead us onward into a country of visual narratives – foretelling beginnings and endings. Intuitions manifest unpredictably. We enter a thousand kilometres of “bull dust and bone-jarring track, into the Tanami Desert,” which is as nothing compared with the howling grief of Crispin’s first poem…

Foreword extract by Juno Gemes, Hawkesbury River, April 11, 2016, pp. 6-7.

 

Introduction

In late 2015 I was diagnosed with cancer. Before then, I’d not understood how five words could change everything. “I’m sorry, Judith,” my doctor told me, “it’s cancer.” It’s a cliché that you only learn to value life when death is walking beside you, but it was absolutely true for me. I remember driving over Clyde Mountain to bring the word cancer to my parents’ home. Every tree on the range seemed invested with vital force. Every leaf was vibrant, iridescent. Gray mountain gums, in headlights, seemed to manifest ancient intelligence – bearing witness to the fleeting existence of human beings. The threat of death reminds you how precious people are – your oldest friends, children, lovers, parents – you wonder how you’ll bear to leave them. There is a particularly miraculous vision of the world that comes only with the diagnosis of serious illness.

The interval between diagnosis and surgery is an eternity. The surgeon showed me a chart – “If the cancer falls into this range,” he said, “you’ll live; this range and you’ll die.” I felt like Schrödinger’s cat, neither living nor dying. People who see their own death live in two worlds, one mundane and one miraculous. Later, when the cancer had been removed and my death sentence lifted, I watched that other world diminish day by day. No matter how I clung to that miraculous vision, it faded – just as the certain knowledge of my death faded. But something remained. Something is different now – because I know there is a secret world nested inside this one. I’ve seen it. …

The earliest photographs in this book were taken in 2013, when I still believed the Warlpiri needed my help – to promote literacy and health, to outline positive pathways toward reconciliation, and so on. The later photographs were taken in December 2015, when I knew, without a shadow of doubt, that I was the drowning woman and the Warlpiri were the lifeboat. Lajamanu’s elders, especially Wanta Jampijinpa, Henry Jackamarra, and Jerry Jangala, were kind to me. They gave me a skin name1 and showed me how to be a “policewoman” for Jdbrille Waterhole. They seemed genuinely delighted by my interest in Warlpiri cosmology, which they illustrated with stories and drawings – some of which are reproduced in this book. The older women took me “hunting” for wattle seed and bush potato. They told me stories of covenants entered into with ancient star-beings and showed me places along the Tanami Track where min-min lights had chased travellers. Fairy tales and mysteries take on new importance when your life feels precarious.

Lajamanu in 2016 is a meeting of two universes. Elders check their Facebook status on iPhones while explaining, in matter-of-fact tones, about a landscape that will hold you or kill you, depending on your scent – where spirit snakes live in the waterways and the dead walk side by side with the living. In Lajamanu I lost my fear of dying, and more importantly, I lost my fear of living. This is a book about magic. Not the magic of Kabbalists, Theosophists, or conjurers, not Crowley’s magick with a k, nor the magic of the New Age or Western religion – but magic that describes the world hidden inside this world, a world seen only by Aboriginal elders and the dying.

This is not a book of photojournalism and makes no attempt to be objective. Quite the contrary, in fact, I wanted this book to be as subjective as possible. These photographs, especially the portraits, have grown out of my love for this community – the poetry of these often physically fragile people, whose unshakable belief in the deep magic of the landscape gives them a strength rarely evident in the city. Warlpiri culture is gentle; it leaves no tracks on the earth. The history of Aboriginal Australia is largely a record of gardening – “cleaning up country” with firestick farming and ceremonies to strengthen trees through song. When Warlpiri people move through the landscape, they introduce themselves. They apologise to that country for breaking twigs. They ask permission to take water from the creeks. If humanity ever transcends its selfish and murderous nature, it will be because of people like the Warlpiri.

Introduction extract by Judith Crispin pp. 11-13.

 

 

You shall not trap me in this fish-trap of yours in which you trap the dead,

because I know it, and I know its name,

I know the name in which it came into being.

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(Coffin Texts)

 

 

Judith Crispin. 'The Lord's Return is Near' 2014

 

Judith Crispin
The Lord’s Return is Near
Coober Pedy SA, November 2014

 

 

The Stuart Highway is a bisecting line in a thousand kilometres of nothing. The sheer scale of the landscape is overwhelming. I’d driven for two days with only Leonard Cohen and David Bowie for company, and had never felt more isolated. I don’t know why I stopped, leaving the Land Rover idling in the middle of the highway, and walked over to the tree. Perhaps its tallness startled me – its length so exposed above the desert floor. I wanted to lay my palm against its bark. At first I didn’t notice the sign nailed high on its trunk: “The Lord’s Return is Near.”

This stretch of highway lies south of the rocket range at Woomera. There are oceans of blood on this land. The Woomera immigration detention centre continued a legacy of suffering that began years earlier, in the 1950s, when Maralinga’s radioactive clouds blew over Woomera, a military township, and killed all the children.

Between 1952 and 1963, British forces dropped nine nuclear weapons and nine thermonuclear weapons between Woomera and the Western Australian border, within contamination distance of urban centres. The Menzies-led Australian government of that time was wholly complicit and lied about the known dangers of nuclear tests. Between these bombings, Britain conducted continuous “minor trials,” which, according to the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia, additionally detonated 99.35 kg of beryllium, 23.979 kg of plutonium, and 7968.88 kg of depleted uranium. By contrast, Little Boy, dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 by the United States, contained only 64 kg of uranium-235, and Fat Man, dropped on Nagasaki in 1945 by the United States, contained only 6.4 kg of plutonium. Anyone who wishes to immediately lose faith in the human race should read the short transcript of the Royal Commission, which is freely available online. (pp. 16-18)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Welcome to Nowhere' 2014

 

Judith Crispin
Welcome to Nowhere
Coober Pedy SA, November 2014

 

 

I arrived in Coober Pedy the same week that dust storms tore the roof off the pub. This dugout, borrowed from friends in Alice Springs, was built from a disused shaft. I slept near the door separating their home from the remaining length of shaft, extending far into the rock. Strange sounds echoed behind that door – sounds of wind, or dogs howling. The door was nailed closed. When I first visited Coober Pedy, it was the farthest into the desert that I had ever ventured. Beyond it stretched the expanse of the Great Victoria Desert, Simpson Desert, Strzelecki Desert, Pedirka Desert, Tirari Desert, and Sturt Stony Desert. I was at the start of a journey that would follow Stuart Highway into nothingness and emerge in the huge Tanami Desert of the Northern Territory and Western Australia. Leaving the dugout, I stopped to photograph the words painted on its roof: “Welcome to Nowhere.” (pp. 22-23)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Karlu Karlu I' 2014

 

Judith Crispin
Karlu Karlu I
Near Ayleparrarntenhe NT, November 2014

 

 

Karlu Karlu, nicknamed “The Devil’s Marbles” by white people, was long considered too spiritually dangerous for anyone but Warumungu elders conducting ceremony. Between these giant stones, on a 48-degree day, the radiant heat is almost unimaginable. Near the skeleton of a burned office chair, I found patches of black glass. A Warumungu friend explained that the heat has, in recent years, become so intense at Karlu Karlu that the air itself ignites, fusing desert sand to glass. In Australia’s deserts the evidence of climate change is irrefutable. (p. 24)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Eemie at the UFO Roadhouse' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Eemie at the UFO Roadhouse
Wycliffe Well Roadhouse and Van-park NT, December 2015

 

 

UFO enthusiast Arc Vanderzalm moved to the desert in 2004 to establish a UFO-themed van park. In the van park’s early years, Arc rescued an abandoned emu chick and raised him by hand. He named him Eemie. Travellers stopping for fuel at Wycliffe Well roadhouse are sometimes surprised by an adult emu staring in at them through the window. While a guest of the van park, I once startled Eemie by walking into the ladies’ shower block. He peered out at me through the shower curtain with an air of embarrassment, as though I’d intruded at a delicate moment. Later, as I drove toward Tennant Creek, I spotted Eemie chasing a farm dog down the highway, legs akimbo. (p. 29)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Sexy John' 2014

 

Judith Crispin
Sexy John
Alice Springs NT, November 2014

 

 

Sexy John was rescued as a small calf after his mother was culled as part of a government program to reduce feral camels. He was raised by artists in a collective on the outskirts of Alice Springs and befriended a wild blond-haired boy. More than 160 thousand camels were culled between 2009 and 2013, approximately one-fifth of the camel population of the central deserts. (p. 35)

 

Extract from Five Threnodies for Maralinga

V

At Woomera,
seventy-five identical graves
remember babies lost to the predation
of atomic clouds.

.
Their epitaphs are brief-

Michael Clarke Jones
died 24 August 1952,
aged eight and a half hours.

.
No one has been here for a long time.

.
Weeds struggle.
A military vehicle passes,
heading east toward the rocket range.

.
In the west, Woomera township
is a grid of air force housing.
Land Cruisers fill neat driveways,
lawns are trimmed,
blinds closed.

.
And no one ever steps out for milk,
no one walks a dog.

.
I photograph each headstone,
stooping sometimes to straighten a plastic posy,
a tilted ceramic bear.

.
Wind presses a faded greeting card
to the metal fence.
A matchbox car beside a small boy’s grave
is blue.

.
There are nineteen stones without toys or flowers,
for stillborns named only “baby”-

Baby Spencer,
Baby Dowling,
Baby Stone.

.
Don’t look at me

Baby Gower
Baby Roads

from a soldier’s gunny bag
with your eyes too white, too open
like the eyes of poisoned fish
tumbling
in the Pilbara’s poisoned surf.

 

Judith Crispin. 'Warlpiri Family' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Warlpiri Family
Lajamanu Community NT, December 2015

 

 

In 1948, Warlpiri people were forcibly relocated almost 600 kilometers from their spiritual homeland to Hooker Creek, now Lajamanu, in Gurindji country. Old people, afraid to live among Gurindji ancestors and spirits, tried to walk back to Yuendumu but were rounded up and returned. In the 1970s, Gurindji people held a series of unique ceremonies to hand over the area and its Wampana and Spectacled Hare Wallaby Dreaming stories to the residents of Lajamanu. While this gesture brought some relief to Warlpiri people, who viewed their involuntary occupation of Gurindji land as a breach of traditional Law, they continue to struggle with their relationship to the country. (p. 45)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Four Kurdu-kurdu [Kids] with Trampoline' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Four Kurdu-kurdu [Kids] with Trampoline
Lajamanu Community NT, December 2015

 

 

Country [Gurindji country], hills… well, I put country first… hills, tree, don’t like you – even that water – and that is true. If you drink water from that, or if you not talking to that country because you don’t know, you got no songs with that area… and in the night, or during the day too, you got no language for to try to talk to that country.

When God bin put you there, in your country, that’s it. You got a right to live on there. You can get sick alright, but not too much. Yuwayi [yes], you know God? He say, “Yeah you get sick but you’ll be alright,” you know? “I’m with you there,” that God talking. And same thing for our ceremony too. You’re right to use your ceremony. You’re right to sing your own Dreaming song and talking to your country . . . and tell it true – real true.

Jerry Jangala (pp. 50-51)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Emu Roadkill and Portrait by Shemaiah Matthews' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Emu Roadkill and Portrait by Shemaiah Matthews
Lajamanu Community NT, December 2015

 

Judith Crispin. 'Lily Nungarrayi Yirringali Jurrah-Hargraves Painting' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Lily Nungarrayi Yirringali Jurrah-Hargraves Painting
Warnayaka Arts Centre, Lajamanu Community NT, December 2015

 

 

Without the connection between the land and the person, the individual is lost, empty inside, not connected to anyone or anything or the land. If the connection is lost, they won’t survive and their identity no longer exists. Jukurrpa is our life first. Jukurrpa connects us to our country. It is Law that makes it our right to our country. We can’t be sent away.

This art center [Warnayaka Arts Center] is for the young people to learn their culture and Law. It is important for our youth to learn the knowledge held by the Ngaliya and Warnayaka peoples. The art center is for the survival of culture from the grandfathers’ and grandmothers’ country. The children are getting lost, and there are not many old men left, some women but few men. Some of our important Dreaming sites are hundreds of kilometers from Lajamanu. The grandchildren and great-grandchildren who live in Lajamanu need to know their Jukurrpa; otherwise they will lose their inheritance to this really important country. They need to know the Warlpiri Ngalia Laws so they can go onto their great-grandfathers’ and ancestors’ land, especially where these important Dreaming sites are, like at Mina Mina, belonging to the Kana-kurlangu clan. This is why the art center is so important to the people of Lajamanu. At any time, children can see the works of the elders telling them the Kurdiji, the Law, and all that is tied into the Jukurrpa paintings.

Warnayaka Art elders, recorded by Arts Center manager Louisa Erglis (p. 55)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Sacred Object #1' Nd

 

Judith Crispin
Sacred Object #1
Nd
Muffler painted by Warlpiri artists

 

Judith Crispin. 'Sacred Object #2' Nd

 

Judith Crispin
Sacred Object #2
Nd
Abandoned doll found in Lajamanu Park

 

Judith Crispin. 'Beth Nungarrayi at Jdbrille Waterhole' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Beth Nungarrayi at Jdbrille Waterhole
Jdbrille Waterhole, Tanami Desert NT, June 2015

 

 

This area here, no river. It’s the same deal in this country, and so – what do you call it? Soak? [A soakage, or soak, also called a native well, is a source of water in the Australian desert.] You know . . . I’m trying to get that word there. Soak, yeah, you take all right down to find that water, that water make. Sometimes no water, like this time when it’s dry. Look for the water tree. That’s what my father, my grandpa, my great-grandpa, grandmother, they all look for that water tree. Rock holes down. That’s in our country. We can say it today in a Kardiya way, you know? We can say “Lajamanu is my country.” But that not true. It’s not true . . . yuwayi, Nangala. My country is back there . . . my area is back there.

Jerry Jangala (pp. 68-69)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Wirntali-Jarra [Friends]' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Wirntali-Jarra [Friends]
near Emu waterhole, Tanami Desert NT, December 2015

 

Henry Jackamarra and Jerry Jangala have known each other since they were small children. More than a decade his senior, Henry treats Jerry like a little brother – still lecturing him on what he eats and wears, although both men are now respected elders. (p. 72)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Jerry Jangala Oversees Kangaroo Ceremony' 2014

 

Judith Crispin
Jerry Jangala Oversees Kangaroo Ceremony
Tanami Desert Outpost NT, November 2014

 

 

The animal is honoured by sprinkling handfuls of dirt over its fur before it is prepared for cooking in the traditional way. Jerry explains that in the old days the punishment for getting this ceremony wrong was death. In modern times, the penalty for making mistakes in this ceremony is exile. Wanta Jampijinpa, Jerry’s son, reassured me that exile did not necessarily mean death in the Tanami desert. A person could earn his or her place back in the community by accomplishing a special task. The exile must find the way to catch a wedge-tailed eagle and bring its soft underbelly feathers back to Lajamanu as proof. Wanta explained to me how such a seemingly impossible task could be accomplished, but I do not have permission to reproduce that here. (p. 78)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Henry Jackamarra Cook, Last Kangaroo Dancer' 2015

 

Judith Crispin
Henry Jackamarra Cook, Last Kangaroo Dancer
Lajamanu Community NT, December 2015

 

 

Light Trails of Henry Jackamarra Cook

Law is a gray kangaroo dancing
the thin landscape of Henry Cook into being,
somewhere in the Tanami,
where knucklebone winds scrape bare rock
and Henry stands marsupial
in firelight’s weird.

In Lajamanu, tin houses edge the street.
No one is outside,
no one.

In the arts center, old ladies paint seed-dreaming.
Breeze lifts the hem of a curtain,
then stillness.
It is still.

Henry doesn’t paint anymore. He sits alone,
watching ceremony from the 1970s.
Everyone in the videos is dead now, except him.
And the dead are in the desert,
faceless as the desert is,
and as remote.

Ten years ago it seemed nothing to walk
three days to his sacred country,
granite country,
where great salt lakes exhale their thirst
over spinifex and sand,
the rattling sun.

But arthritis and cataracts have caged him.
Inside the arts center,
the lights are switched off.

We drag chairs across a concrete porch
to watch the Tanami darken, shelf clouds
seal the crater at Wolfe Creek.

Rain wakens on his tongue
the angular syllables of displacement.

And home is the desert breathing over itself by night,
erasing tracks of all who walk there –
night’s emu rising savage in the Milky Way,
and eyes, eyes in the granite mines.

One day, he tells me, I’ll walk out
to my country and never come back.

At town’s edge, a kangaroo left by poachers.
Red dust thickens its pelt, as the red dust lies thick
on Henry’s Ray-Bans, stiffening his white hair to wires.

I photograph him disemboweling the buck,
its intestines knotted to ritual marks –
Henry and his flayed brother, backlit
against chained ridges,
and the last sun rearing.

Law is an old man dancing
the gray kangaroo into being,
sewing him back into the desert’s body,
into his own body, ochre and growl,
a hunting boomerang beaten on the ground.

Night erases this landscape –
slow trees, sand,
the saltbush has gone.

Just Henry’s heels rising and falling
along a wind-scored track,
utterances of a language which belongs to him
and to which he belongs.

Tomorrow, the Catfish Waterhole
will stretch his white hair out elastic,
as telephone wires vanishing into the Tanami.

Mud returns to him,
the cool slow memories of country
before the missions, before diabetes and grog
shrank his ancestors down so small
he holds them in a single cupped hand
like fireflies, tiny comets
crossing in the black.

Tomorrow he’ll thread gumleaves
through the hole in his nose,
and say, photo me like this Nangala
I am a beautiful man.

.
Judith Crispin (pp. 81-83)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Lily Nungarrayi Yirringali' 2014

 

Judith Crispin
Lily Nungarrayi Yirringali
Tanami Desert NT, November 2014

 

 

I was told Lily, when she was young, was in love with a Karadji man but couldn’t be with him because she didn’t want to leave her community. Her arms reveal the parallel ritual marks of someone on a “sacred path.” Now, despite caring relationships with her family, friends, and fourteen adopted dogs, somehow Lily is always alone. When, together with Molly and Rosie, Lily took me to see Catfish Waterhole, she explained that we were going to see her “mother.” I carried Lily, too frail to descend the bank, to the edge of the water. There she turned water over her palms, the traditional way of greeting the waterhole and avoiding surprising any Warnayarra who might be there. The deep love that Warlpiri people have for the landscape, its mountains and waterholes, is almost incomprehensible for white people. Here Lily sings quietly to Catfish Waterhole – not for any ceremonial or traditional reason, I’m told, but just because it makes the waterhole feel loved. (p. 95)

 

Judith Crispin. 'Molly's Flame-Tree Seed-pods' 2014

 

Judith Crispin
Molly’s Flame-Tree Seed-pods
Tanami Desert NT, November 2014

 

Judith Crispin. 'Molly Napurrula Sifts Wattleseed' 2014

 

Judith Crispin
Molly Napurrula Sifts Wattleseed
Tanami Desert NT, November 2014

 

 

Warlpiri people still supplement their diet with bush food. Ground wattleseed is mixed with oil and baked into a kind of flat bread. The older ladies took me out “hunting” for wattleseed and kurrajong seedpods. In a township with only one shop, where a head of broccoli costs more than a takeaway meal for a family, it is vitally important to supplement the community’s diet with “bush food.” White Australians have almost no idea of the variety of native fruits and vegetables that grow in the apparent desert – bush potatoes, bush tomatoes, bush bananas, honey ants, land crabs, wattleseeds, etc., can be gathered throughout the Tanami. (p. 104)

 

 

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13
Aug
17

Exhibition: ‘Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class’ at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt

Exhibition dates: 27th April to 13th August 2017

Curator: Dr Martin Engler, Head of the Collection of Contemporary Art, Städel Museum
Co-curator: Dr Jana Baumann, Städel Museum

Artists: Volker Döhne, Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Tata Ronkholz, Thomas Ruff, Jörg Sasse, Thomas Struth and Petra Wunderlich

 

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015) 'Gutehoffnungshütte, Oberhausen, Ruhrgebiet' 1963

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015)
Gutehoffnungshütte, Oberhausen, Ruhrgebiet
1963
Gelatine silver print on baryta paper
75.3 x 91.4 cm
Art Collection Deutsche Börse Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation
© Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015) 'Half-Timber Houses' 1959-61/1974

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015)
Half-Timber Houses
1959-61/1974
Silver gelatine print on baryta paper
152.4 x 112.5 cm
Sammlung Deutsche Bank
© Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

 

 

The Bechers depict the half-timbered houses from the Siegerland in a sober and restrained fashion. The picture removes the buildings from their original context. One view follows the next. Thus the form of the single building becomes more important than its function. In the photographs the half-timbered houses become aesthetic objects with a sculptural character. Bernd and Hilla Becher do not present their images individually, but in a grid. Not the single photo is the work, but the total of the typology is.

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015) 'Half-Timber Houses' (detail) 1959-61/1974

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015)
Half-Timber Houses (detail)
1959-61/1974
Silver gelatine print on baryta paper
152.4 x 112.5 cm
Sammlung Deutsche Bank
© Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015) 'Half-Timber Houses' (detail) 1959-61/1974

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015)
Half-Timber Houses (detail)
1959-61/1974
Silver gelatine print on baryta paper
152.4 x 112.5 cm
Sammlung Deutsche Bank
© Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

 

 

 

“What the teachings of Bernd and Hilla Becher sparked off – and their students developed further – is a new conception of the artwork according to which the boundaries between sculpture, painting and photography dissolve in terms of media and aesthetics alike. In other words, in the very moment in history when photography emancipated itself to become an independent medium, it sounded its own death knell.” (Press release)

WHAT ABSOLUTE RUBBISH – the second sentence, that is!

Just look at the photographs as pictures.

The Bechers and their students’ photographs might invoke a new concept of the pictorial but that does not mean the death of photography far from it. In fact, this conceptualisation opens up an expanded terrain of becoming for photography (continuing the theme of the last post on the work of Walker Evans). In this sense, the work of these artists is vital to an understanding of the place of photography within the observation, construction and taxonomy of contemporary culture and its pictorial representation.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Städel Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. For more information please see the interactive website.

 

One of the most radical changes in art’s relation to its aesthetic, media, and economic contexts is closely associated with the students of the first Becher Class at the Düsseldorf art academy – but even more so with the names of their teachers, Bernd and Hilla Becher. The exhibition brings together 200 major works, some in large format, by these important artists, as well as a selection of their early works.

 

 

Candida Höfer (*1944) 'Weidengasse Cologne VIII 1977' 1977 (2013)

 

Candida Höfer (*1944)
Weidengasse Cologne VIII 1977
1977 (2013)
Gelatine silver print on baryta paper
42.6 x 36.7 cm
Loan from the artist
© Candida Höfer, Köln; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

 

Volker Döhne (*1953) 'Untitled (Colourful)' 1979 (2014)

 

Volker Döhne (*1953)
Untitled (Colourful)
1979 (2014)
Colour print from colour transparency
37 x 47 cm
Private collection
© Volker Döhne, Krefeld 2017

 

Thomas Ruff (*1958) 'Interior 1 D' 1982

 

Thomas Ruff (*1958)
Interior 1 D
1982
Chromogenic colour print
47 x 57 cm
Loan from the artist
© Thomas Ruff; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

 

Andreas Gursky (*1955) 'Doorman, Passport Control' 1982 (2007)

 

Andreas Gursky (*1955)
Doorman, Passport Control
1982 (2007)
Inkjet print
43.2 x 52.5 cm
Loan from the artist / Courtesy Sprüth Magers
© Andreas Gursky / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017 / Courtesy Sprüth Magers Berlin London

 

Axel Hütte (*1951) 'Moedling House' 1982-1984

 

Axel Hütte (*1951)
Moedling House
1982-1984
Gelatine silver print on baryta paper
66 x 80 cm
Loan from the artist
© Axel Hütte

 

Petra Wunderlich (*1954) 'Fossa Degli Angeli, Italy' 1989

 

Petra Wunderlich (*1954)
Fossa Degli Angeli, Italy
1989
Gelatine silver print on baryta paper
61 x 75,2 cm
Private collection
© Petra Wunderlich; VG Bild-Kunst 2017

 

 

From 27 April to 13 August 2017, the Städel Museum is staging a comprehensive survey on the Becher Class at the Düsseldorf art academy and the major paradigm shift in the medium of artistic photography with which the Bechers and their students are associated. With the aid of some 200 photographs by Volker Döhne, Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Tata Ronkholz, Thomas Ruff, Jörg Sasse, Thomas Struth and Petra Wunderlich – a group of whom some enjoy international renown and others are due for rediscovery – the exhibition will examine the influence exerted by Bernd and Hilla Becher on their students at the Düsseldorf school. What unites the students’ works with those of their teachers? How do they differ? Is there really such a thing as the “Becher School” or is it ‘merely’ a matter of several highly successful photographers who happened to be studying at the ‘right place’ at an especially propitious moment in history? And how have those artists influenced our present conception of what a picture is? Taking the artist duo’s work as a point of departure, the exhibition “Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class” will acquaint viewers with the radical changes in the medium of artistic photography that became manifest in the works of the Becher pupils in the eighties and above all the nineties, and investigate the art-historical impact of this development up to the very present. It will feature major large-scale works as well as key early endeavours by the members of what is presumably the most influential generation of German photographers in the field of fine art.

The students of the first in a long line of Becher Classes at the Düsseldorfer art academy introduced elementary changes to contemporary art’s aesthetic, media and economic contexts. They not only contributed decisively to shaping international photography in the 1990s, but also fundamentally redefined the status and perception of artistic photography in general. Their works can be considered as one of the most self-confident emancipations of photography as art in the mediums history, while at the same time reflecting the (not merely digital) moment when the boundaries between the media dissolve.

“Bernd and Hilla Becher’s first – meanwhile world-famous – students played a tremendously important role in establishing photography as an expressive medium on a par with other art forms. The nine artists featured in our show occupy a realm where the distinction between painting and photography is no longer clear. The permeability of the boundary between the media is deliberate in their work, and in that respect they mirror one of the key focuses of the Städel Museum’s collection of contemporary art,” observes Städel director Dr Philipp Demandt. And exhibition curator Dr Martin Engler adds: “What the teachings of Bernd and Hilla Becher sparked off – and their students developed further – is a new conception of the artwork according to which the boundaries between sculpture, painting and photography dissolve in terms of media and aesthetics alike. In other words, in the very moment in history when photography emancipated itself to become an independent medium, it sounded its own death knell.”

The founding of a chair for artistic photography at the Düsseldorf art academy in 1976 provided perhaps the single most important impulse for a change in how the medium of photography was perceived. In close cooperation with his wife Hilla Becher, Bernd Becher held that chair until 1996. Even before their appointment to the Düsseldorf school, the Bechers had been taking pictures of historical industrial architecture, subscribing to a work concept that exceeded the scope of a common documentary approach in photography. They portrayed mining headframes, blast furnaces, gas tanks, water towers and other testimonies to a vanishing industrial culture – frontally, in central perspective, with fascinating depth of field, and where possible before the backdrop of a uniformly grey sky. They arranged the individual shots in grids to form large-scale tableaus they called typologies. The concern here was no longer merely the illustration of reality, but its perception. Reality could no longer be depicted singly, but only in a multiplicity of simultaneous images. From the formal aesthetic point of view, the staging of the pictorial subjects was now far more than documentary in nature. The affinity to minimal and concept art – evident in the rigour of the pictorial vocabulary, the industrial aesthetic and the new perception of a work in stages – is unmistakable.

Especially in their early work, the students of the first Becher Class explored their teachers’ artistic strategy with great intensity. Yet as they continued to pursue it in the nineties, they did so ever more independently, and in their own highly individual styles. With the aid of various strategies in terms of scale, presentation and motif, and not least of all with abstract pictorial inventions provoked by digital image techniques, they took the interpenetration of the mediums of painting and photography to an extreme. The result was a new concept of the picture that blurs aesthetic and media distinctions. “The dissolution of media boundaries, but also the use of technical innovations, are characteristic of the works of the first Becher Class. It is here that the impact of a changing media culture is felt,” explains Dr Jana Baumann, the co-curator of the exhibition.

A show devoted to such a complex phenomenon on the one hand, and such productive teaching activities on the other, must inevitably be limited in scope. “Photographs Become Pictures” concentrates deliberately on the students of the early years of the Becher Class, beginning with Höfer, Döhne, Hütte and Struth in 1976 and ending with the completion of Gursky’s and Sasse’s studies in 1987/1988. In retrospect, it is precisely in the heterogeneity of the first Becher Class – with its wide range of approaches that have influenced our present-day understanding of the pictorial image – that the success of Bernd and Hilla Becher’s teachings is evident.

Candida Höfer (b. 1944) is known above all for her pictures of public interiors such as libraries, universities, museums and waiting rooms. Nevertheless, the purely documentary aspect is ultimately of secondary importance to her, as is also true of her teachers. Particularly when she turned to colour photography, she began producing iconically clear shots of meaning-charged interiors extremely striking in their rigorous aesthetic. In composition, repetition and rhythm as well as the sculptural emphasis, Höfer’s formal staging of her interiors is reminiscent of the Becher typologies.

A distinct affinity to the typologies is also evident in early street shots by Thomas Struth (b. 1954), such as West Broadway, Tribeca, New York (1978) or Sommerstrasse, Düsseldorf (1980). He proceeded in a manner similar to his teachers, but broadened his spectrum of motifs. He is concerned in his work with cultural structures; in addition to streets he also depicts museums or religious cult sites and portrays families. With the aid of social and ethnological allusions he reveals orders and interrelationships, thus achieving a universal survey of human and their lifeworld in imagery.

Petra Wunderlich‘s (b. 1954) black-and-white series depict details of churches or quarries that the artist has introduced to a new, abstract compositional framework. By this method she reduces architecture visually to its stereometric tectonics in such a way that elementary architectonic forms unexpectedly emerge from the “broken” surfaces of nature. Wunderlich’s photographs, like those by the Bechers, can be read as sociological and historical testimonies.

The workgroups of Volker Döhne (b. 1953) closely resemble Bernd and Hilla Bechers’ typologies with regard to concept and motif alike. He developed series such as Small- Scale Iron Industry (1977/78) or Small Railway Bridges and Underpasses in the Bergisches and Märkisches Land (1979). With his experimental Colour (1979) series, he then emancipated himself from his teachers.

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997) was interested primarily in factory gates, shop windows, beverage kiosks and snack bars, which she photographed in the even light of grey days. Many aspects of these works are strongly reminiscent of the Becher photographs: the consistent placement of the subject at the pictorial centre, the unchanging size of the prints, but also the serial, typologically comparative approach.

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) is likewise deeply indebted to his teachers’ serial method, which we encounter in his work in ever-different formulations. His portraits as well as the strongly enlarged nocturnal shots of, in part, found material, convey his fundamentally sceptical attitude towards photography’s claim to truth and documentation. His persistent investigations of new pictorial sources and technologies are perhaps the most impressive demonstrations of the manner in which Ruff continues the approach of Bernd and Hilla Becher.

Axel Hütte‘s (b. 1951) early architectural details investigate social situations using a mode of photographic expression distinguished by distance and anonymity. Within this context, he devotes himself as much to spoiled landscapes as to supposedly untouched nature which nevertheless has always been formed by human intervention. A conspicuous aspect of his work is the strong reference to historical landscape painting, whose formal compositional principles he both copies and deconstructs. Whereas the Bechers directed their attention to the sculptural or conceptual potential of their pictures, Hütte focusses on painting as the leading medium of modern art.

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962) initially devoted himself to highly artificial and at the same time prosaic arrangements of petit-bourgeois domestic culture. His later “tableaus” represent a virtual antithesis to the reductive rigour of these early works. Using digital and analogue techniques alike, he began processing found pictures as well as images of his own making, in which context he blurred the distinction between painting and photograph beyond recognition.

Andreas Gursky‘s (b. 1955) early photographs are likewise characterised by a keen interest in everyday surroundings – the private as well as the public sphere, the context of work as well as leisure time. Like Sasse, he investigates the aesthetic boundary between photographic and painterly image production. By means of digital manipulations he uses to duplicate and mount the pictorial motif to the point of abstraction, he creates perplexing pictorial architectures that merge construction and reality in large-scale colour prints.

The development of the Becher Class shows how concept art’s expanding notion of the artwork led to a new concept of the pictorial including photography. What the teachers introduced in rudiments was taken by their students and the following generation of artists to a momentous change in the picturing of reality. The realisation that photography cannot reproduce reality impartially does not detract from the medium. On the contrary, it means an enhancement in terms of artistic potential. What is more, the lack of focus in the portrayal of reality – in the literal and figurative sense alike – enriches photography’s complexity. It is not least of digital changes that enables innovative pictorial invention. Yet the boundaries of the photographic image also became fluid in the development from individual work to typology and series, and from detail to overall image. The answer to all questions about the significance, classification, doctrine and conception of what we refer to as the “Becher School” can thus be found in an insight as simple as it is surprising: in the very moment in history when photography emancipated itself to become an independent medium, it sounded its own death knell.

Press release from the Städel Museum

 

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

At left, Axel Hütte (b. 1951) 15 artists USA (David McDermott, Stephen Prina, Mike Kelley, Peter McGough, David McDermott, Doug Starn, Mike Starn, Jeff Koons, Haim Steinbach, Ross Bleckner) (detail) 1988 (2003)

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Candida Höfer (left) and Thomas Struth (*1954) Louvre 3, Paris 1989 1989 (2012) (right)

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Thomas Struth (*1954) Paradiese 09 Xi Shuang Banna, Provinz Yunnan, China, 1999

 

Thomas Struth (*1954) 'Paradiese 09' 1999

 

Thomas Struth (*1954)
Paradiese 09
Xi Shuang Banna, Provinz Yunnan, China, 1999

 

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) with House No. 1 I 1987 (right)

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Axel Hütte (*1951)

 

Axel Hütte (*1951) 'Castellina' 1992 (2015)

 

Axel Hütte (*1951)
Castellina
1992 (2015)
Chromogenic colour print
98.4 x 120.3 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung © Axel Hütte

 

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Thomas Struth (*1954) The Consolandi Family, Mailand, 1996 (2014) (left)

 

Exhibition views “Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class”
Photo: Städel Museum

 

 

The Bechers

For their photographs Bernd and Hilla Becher are awarded the “Golden Lion” in the category of “sculpture” at the Venice Biennale in 1990. How is that possible? Surprisingly at the time there was no separate category for photography at the Biennale. But this is not the real reason. Already in 1969 the first larger exhibition of the Bechers is called “Anonymous Sculptures”, just like their first volume of photographs. The artists very consciously link the genres of photography and sculpture. This idea informs their entire oeuvre.

Bernd Becher and Hilla Wobeser begin to collaborate in 1959. At the time both study at the art academy Düsseldorf. Two years later they marry. During the following five decades the artist couple produces mostly tableaus of several parts – consisting of three, nine, twelve or more photos; they call them typologies. Their subjects are disused headstocks, furnaces, oil refineries, water reservoir towers, grain silos, gasometres or even half-timbered houses in former workers’ settlements – all of them testimonies of a declining industrial culture.

 

An Overall Concept

When Hilla and Bernd Becher presented their works at the Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf in 1969, this coincided with an exhibition on US-American minimal art – a juxtaposition that was to prove programmatic. In 1972 the American sculptor Carl Andre mentioned the insightful connection of the Bechers’ works and the movements of minimal and conceptual art. This prominent, art-theoretical connection significantly contributed to the great international success of the Bechers. This is also why – especially in the USA – the two are considered concept artists more than photographers.

The Bechers’ method of working – ostensibly – is concerned with sobriety and anonymity, rigidity and objectivity. They work in series, where the whole and a part of this whole, total view and detail are balanced. Setting their photographs into the context of sculpture, they test the boundaries of the genres of photography and sculpture. Working and presenting their works in series, they move the photograph beyond the individual work: the viewer can never see everything at once; instead the eye oscillates between detail and general context.

The artist couple directs the attention to formal, creative aspects of the photographed edifices at the same time allowing them to disappear in the typology’s grid. The rigidity of their pictorial vocabulary and the interest in an industrial aesthetic evidences the close proximity of the Bechers’ creative work to minimal and concept art.

 

Photography in Germany

“In principle it [photography] was a fallow field, where nothing ‘noteworthy’ had taken place in the past fifty years. We saw us in the tradition of objective photography of the 1920s; Bernd and Hilla Becher were the first to reconnect to this. There was absolutely nothing that we could fight or needed to disengage with. We could start from scratch.” ~ Thomas Ruff

 

“New Objectivity” this was the motto of the 1920s – also in photography. It was no longer the pictorial language of painting, but precision, focus and truth to detail, characteristics of photography that had garnered the artists’ interest.

The photographer August Sander focused on the society of the Weimar Republic and created a typology: in 1925 his pictorial atlas People of the 20th Century, where he systematically assembled hundreds of portraits of stereotypes of people of the most diverse social backgrounds and occupations. All of his sitters are portrayed frontally, which makes the photographs comparable. Sander also engaged in the photography of landscapes, industrial sites and cities.

Two more representatives of the photography of New Objectivity are also worth mentioning here: Albert Renger-Patzsch recorded industrial buildings and machinery in a sober directness. Karl Blossfeldt adopted scientific standards and photographed plants – always before a neutral background, removed from their natural setting.

Bernd and Hilla Becher draw on these approaches and develop them in their works. With a few exemptions, photography was not considered an autonomous artistic medium in Germany. Still in the 1960s, photography in art predominantly served as a means of documentation of actions, happenings and performances. Yet painting and photography interact. The painter Gerhard Richter for example, used photos as templates for his paintings since the early 1960s. The Bechers in turn greatly contributed to the recognition of photography as autonomous artistic medium with their photographs.

 

The Becher Class: Adoption, Distinction

DÖHNE GURSKY HÖFER HÜTTE RONKHOLZ RUFF SASSE STRUTH WUNDERLICH

These are the students of the first Becher class. In 1976 Bernd Becher is appointed first professor for photography at the Düsseldorf Art Academy. In close cooperation with his wife Hilla he teaches there for twenty years. Their first students become artists, who will have a formative influence on photography in the 1980s and the 1990s internationally. The Becher students intensely study their teachers’ work. Especially in their early works comparable approaches develop: a distanced perspective, an interest in architecture and striving for technical precision.

The Bechers are preoccupied with an industrial architecture in decline, representative also of the social changes affecting the respective region. Taking this as a starting point, their students consider their direct surroundings and social contexts. They seek to identify systems of classification and in their photographs investigate the relationship of individual work and series. In the process the Becher students adopt their own positions. They discover new themes, techniques and creative strategies. Regardless of the distinctions they are indebted to the conceptual approach of their teachers, which they then developed in their individual ways.

In their teaching and their work Bernd and Hilla Becher explore a concept of the image, where medial and aesthetic distinctions of sculpture, painting and photography dissolve. Their students continue this work in very different ways. In the 1980s and 1990s their enquiries lead to a critical reflexion of the possibilities of representing reality. The lack of focus in the depiction of reality – literally and figuratively – represent an increase in artistic complexity. Innovative pictorial creations were now possible by way of digital intervention.

The borders of the photographic image blur at the stage between single work and typology and series. The alternation of perception, oscillating between detail and total image extend the possibilities of photography. The meaning of what is called “Becher school” can be summarised in a simple and surprising statement: at the historic moment, when photography becomes an independent medium, it also realises its potential and explores its limits. Photography reaches its limits, transgresses it and thus ultimately questions its existence.

 

Kiosks and Streets

The developments in American photography are also important to the Becher-students: Ed Ruscha, whose photos show everyday subjects, is one of their role models. In 1966 he creates Every Building on the Sunset Strip. With a simple handheld camera Ruscha photographs every building on the Los Angeles boulevard of that name; he presents his pictures in a fanfold or an artist’s book. This quickly reveals the serial principle behind the work. Volker Döhne’s approach in Reconstruction II is similar. He, too, documents the commercial architecture, largely determining the surrounding.

Ice cream parlour, garage, drug store, stationers, dwelling house, shoe shop – nicely aligned. Volker Döhne focuses on the urban space dominated by nondescript post war architecture and empty sites. Other than his American colleague Ed Ruscha, Döhne always positions his camera head-on in the same angle. Surprisingly this emphasises the buildings’ volume. Like his teachers Bernd and Hilla Becher he emphasises the three-dimensional, sculptural aspect of buildings and pursues a concept that he determined before he began to photograph.

The Bechers assemble identical, yet different photographs to a static tableau. Döhne on the other hand, required the viewer to move along the strip and proceed down the row of photographs. Above all the viewer must add together the photos of the Krefelder Straße by himself: the work forms as a result of the viewer’s active viewing and perception.

 

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953) 'Krefeld, Ostwall corner Rheinstraße, (Reconstruction II)' 1990 (1992)

Volker Döhne (b. 1953)
Krefeld, Ostwall corner Rheinstraße, (Reconstruction II)
1990 (1992)
Silver gelatin print on baryte paper
47 × 37 cm
Private collection

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953) 'Krefeld, Rheinstraße 82 (Reconstruction II)' 1990 (1992)

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953)
Krefeld, Rheinstraße 82 (Reconstruction II)
1990 (1992)
Silver gelatin print on baryte paper
47 × 37 cm
Private collection

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953) 'Krefeld, Rheinstraße 84 (Reconstruction II)' 1990 (1992)

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953)
Krefeld, Rheinstraße 84 (Reconstruction II)
1990 (1992)
Silver gelatin print on baryte paper
47 × 37 cm
Private collection

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953) 'Krefeld, Rheinstraße 86 (Reconstruction II)' 1990 (1992)

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953)
Krefeld, Rheinstraße 86 (Reconstruction II)
1990 (1992)
Silver gelatin print on baryte paper
47 × 37 cm
Private collection

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953) 'Krefeld, Rheinstraße 88 (Reconstruction II)' 1990 (1992)

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953)
Krefeld, Rheinstraße 88 (Reconstruction II)
1990 (1992)
Silver gelatin print on baryte paper
47 × 37 cm
Private collection

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997) 'Beverage kiosk, Düsseldorf, Hermannstraße 31' 1978

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997)
Beverage kiosk, Düsseldorf, Hermannstraße 31
1978
Gelatine silver print on baryta paper
41.2 x 51.2 cm
Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln/Dauerleihgabe der Sparkasse KölnBonn
© Tata Ronkholz, Nachlassverwaltung Van Ham Art Estate 2017

 

 

Cigarette and gumball machines are fixed to exterior walls. Advertising posters overlap. Beverages, magazines and sweets are visibly lined up behind glass. It is Tata Ronkholz’ serial presentation that enables the comparison of the kiosks and their study as a social phenomenon in urban contexts.

Kiosks are everyday meeting points and the setting for social life. At the same time their role fundamentally changed in the past decades. Ronkholz photographs kiosks as socially grown places. She positions them centrally in their architectural environment – people are absent. This is what the photos have in common with Becher-photographs. Like her teachers, Ronkholz is committed to the conservation and archiving of a changing urban culture.

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997) 'Dusseldorf, Sankt-Franziskusstraße 107' 1977

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997)
Dusseldorf, Sankt-Franziskusstraße 107
1977
Silver gelatin print on baryta paper
41.2 × 51.2 cm
Courtesy The Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne / Permanent Loan of the Sparkasse KölnBonn

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997) 'Without title' 1978

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997)
Without title
1978
Silver gelatin print on baryta paper
41.2 × 51.2 cm
Courtesy The Photographische Sammlung / SK Foundation Culture, Cologne / Dauerleihgabe der Sparkasse KölnBonn

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997) 'Düsseldorf, Germany, Konkordiastraße 85' 1978

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997)
Düsseldorf, Germany, Konkordiastraße 85
1978
Silver gelatin print on baryta paper
41.2 × 51.2 cm
Courtesy The Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne / Permanent Loan of the Sparkasse KölnBonn

 

 

PICTURE PARALLELS

Bernd and Hilla Bechers students are linked to the work of their teachers in many ways. And yet they devote themselves, in part, to new motifs, subjects, and picture formats during their studies. In addition to architecture, they also photograph interiors, simple everyday objects or people.

In the early 1980s the Becher-students Axel Hütte and Thomas Ruff turn to portrait photography practically at the same time. They capture their models with neutral facial expressions, generally head-on before a monochrome background. The extreme setting makes the individual recede while the surface of the background dominates. In the series the single faces turn into an interchangeable motif somewhere between person and typology.

 

From Near and Far

The directions of the persons’ gazes differs. Nothing distracts from their faces. The neutral background and the close details are reminiscent of giant passport photographs. One almost overlooks that some of the sitters are famous artists today.

Axel Hütte’s portraits with their conscious play with blurring and sharpness are irritating: some areas in the photo show up the slightest detail, while others are slightly blurred – a conscious reference to the Bechers’ works, characterised by their extreme depth of focus. When observing Hütte’s works from close-up the face becomes a surface of structures. If one wants to see it in focus, one needs to distance oneself. Thus the viewer is kept at bay and always in motion.

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951) '15 artists USA (David McDermott, Stephen Prina, Mike Kelley, Peter McGough, David McDermott, Doug Starn, Mike Starn, Jeff Koons, Haim Steinbach, Ross Bleckner)' 1988 (2003)

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951)
15 artists USA (David McDermott, Stephen Prina, Mike Kelley, Peter McGough, David McDermott, Doug Starn, Mike Starn, Jeff Koons, Haim Steinbach, Ross Bleckner)
1988 (2003)
Silver gelatin print on baryta paper
113 x 91 each cm
Loan from the artist

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951) '15 artists USA (David McDermott, Stephen Prina, Mike Kelley, Peter McGough, David McDermott, Doug Starn, Mike Starn, Jeff Koons, Haim Steinbach, Ross Bleckner)' (detail) 1988 (2003)

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951)
15 artists USA (David McDermott, Stephen Prina, Mike Kelley, Peter McGough, David McDermott, Doug Starn, Mike Starn, Jeff Koons, Haim Steinbach, Ross Bleckner) (detail)
1988 (2003)
Silver gelatin print on baryta paper
113 x 91 each cm
Loan from the artist

 

 

PICTURES GENERATION

Thomas Ruff explores the gap between reality and image. This is something he shares with the American artists of the so-called “Pictures Generation” from the 1970s and 1980s. This informal group of artists, among them Cindy Sherman, Sherrie Levine, Robert Longo and Richard Prince, grew up with a flood of pictures in cinema, television and the print media. Their works show distrust for the media, as well as a fascination with it. The artists make use of existing images from film, advertising and art. They copy, quote and redesign this material – more subtly than the artists from American Pop Art in the 1960s. Instead of working with found images in print, collage or painting, the artists of the “Pictures Generation” make small interventions. By introducing minor changes or by producing a practically identical copy of an image they very consciously play with conventional ways of perception. In their works they draw attention to mechanisms of picture production and the methods of artificial construction of reality through pictures.

 

Photos of Faces

Like Axel Hütte, Thomas Ruff does not believe in an image of human character. He is convinced that only the exterior reality – the appearance – can be represented. In this sense Ruff’s portraits are photos of faces that resemble expressionless surfaces. The monochrome background hides any hint at a recognisable location.

The face becomes a surface and thus resembles a projection screen for an advertising message. The serial juxtaposition turns the individual in Ruff’s photographs into a type that also represents a particular generation. The stereotypes communicated by mass media and the influence of images on individual and collective opinion-forming are being questioned.

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) 'Portrait (G. Benzenberg)' 1985

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958)
Portrait (G. Benzenberg)
1985
Chromogenic colour print
41 × 33 cm
Loan from the artist

 

 

“Looks good. Continue in colour.”

The bed, bath and living rooms, the kitchen unit and the furniture of the 1950s and 1970s, Thomas Ruff finds at the homes of relatives and friends in the Black Forest, where he comes from. Bernd and Hilla Becher preferably work in black and white. Ruff on the other hand starts experimenting with colour photography early on during his studies:

“At some point I started, making use of the colour practice, which I […] had developed, in my interiors, and I thought this looked better than in black and white photos. The colleagues said, you cannot do this. Then I also asked Bernd Becher and he said: “Looks good. Continue in colour.”

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) 'Interior 3 A' 1979

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958)
Interior 3 A
1979
Chromogenic paint removal
45.7 x 39.4 cm
Loan from the artist

 

 

A Question of Mise-en-Scène

The two clips on yellow ground look like two flies. The bright background emphasises the form of the represented objects. Their original function becomes secondary. The simple stationary objects become worthy of the photographer’s meticulous attention. Jörg Sasse uses and parodies the strategies of advertising photography, ever concerned with presenting an object as something special.

From the start, Sasse’s work shows a painterly tendency as well as a penchant for abstraction. This is also apparent in a sequence of still lives with reduced colour and shapes. In his early work Sasse is interested in his immediate environment. He seeks to capture the unusual in the everyday. This links his work with the typologies of his teachers. Other than they do, Sasse does not give titles to his works; instead he gives them random numbers. This allows him to remove the represented object even further from its original context without offering a new interpretation.

 

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962) 'ST-84-12-06' 1984

 

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962)
ST-84-12-06
1984
Chromogenic paint removal
18 × 24 cm
Art Collection Deutsche Börse, Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation

 

 

Kitchen, Bath Room and Living Room

Almost in symmetry Jörg Sasse’s photo shows a light blue jug and a glass jug on two hobs. It belongs to a series, which Sasse dedicated to modest interiors between the post war years and the economic miracle. Sometimes the photos show individual objects, sometimes a combination of two or three objects. They capture details of tiles, furniture or floors.

They give the impression as if the objects were arranged by coincident or as if the inhabitants had left them behind like this. At the same time the scenes appear to be very artificial. Sasse transforms colour, shape and structure of the interior settings into individual, abstract compositions. He focuses on formal contrasts, sequences and similarities. According to the artist it is “not the preoccupation with interiors but with the picture.” The photographer is more interested in the painterly composition than in the representation of reality.

 

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962) 'W-84-02-13, Dusseldorf' 1984

 

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962)
W-84-02-13, Dusseldorf
1984
Chromogenic paint removal
57.2 × 67.6 cm
Courtesy Gallery Wilma Tolksdorf

 

 

Courtyards and Street Canyons

The artists Axel Hütte and Thomas Struth share an interest in urban non-spaces, indistinct streets or architectures.

In the 1980s modernist residential dwellings like the brutalist, square James Hammett House in London, become increasingly less popular and are turned into social housing. The raw concrete façade of the London block of flats spreads across almost the entire picture. The empty square in front of it is abandoned. There is no sign of inhabitants: a forbidding place.

Like Bernd and Hilla Becher in their pictures of industrial buildings, Axel Hütte emphasises the angular and unwieldy shapes of the architecture in his London series. From a distance the sad, functional façade appears to be an abstract pattern of rhythmically changing shades of grey, behind which the architecture recedes.

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951) 'James Hammett House' 1982-1984

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951)
James Hammett House
1982-1984
Silver gelatin print on baryte paper
66 x 80 cm
Loan of the artist

 

 

In the Street

The row of houses on New York’s 21st Street seems never ending. Old houses and modern high rises alternate and form a sequence of textures and geometric forms rich in contrast. Thomas Struth was struck by the deep street canyons of the metropolis. He took his photos from the middle of the street, positioning the camera at eye-level – a method that resembles that of his teachers. It is an unusual perspective unfamiliar to both pedestrians and drivers.

Struth begins capturing urban spaces already when in Cologne and Düsseldorf. A stipend takes him to New York in 1978. His photographic approach offers a completely new view of the city’s urbanity and structure.

“I may very well stem from the legacy of documentary photography and do use its means and perspective, but my true concern exceeds this. […] To me the street is a space, where manifold influences and historical events convene and become apparent. The public space has a subconscious language, addressing us continuously.”

 

Thomas Struth (*1954) 'West 21st Street, Chelsea, New York' 1978 (1987)

 

Thomas Struth (*1954)
West 21st Street, Chelsea, New York
1978 (1987)
Gelatine silver print on baryta paper
66 x 84 cm
DZ BANK art collection at the Städel Museum
© Thomas Struth

 

 

VARIETY

Landscapes, families, places of leisure, libraries, museums – the subjects of the Becher-students are equally as varied as their approach to photography. Their own positions develop more and more, while shared characteristics with their teachers’ oeuvre become apparent.

“Not the subject, but the representation of a landscape is what matters to me.” ~Axel Hütte

Almost two thirds of the picture are concealed by thick fog. The rocks in the foreground, however, are razor sharp. In Furka Axel Hütte plays with the contrast of diffusion and focussed parts of the picture. He explores landscape photography and thus consciously enters into competition with the genre of painting.

Foggy landscape is of great importance in the paintings of German Romanticism. This art movement, which began in the late 19th century, is characterised by mystic nature, where religious ideas are intertwined with subjective sentiment. Caspar David Friedrich is recognised as one of the most important representatives of Romanticist landscape painting. To him nature mirrored the human soul. In his painting Mountains in the Rising Fog, which he painted around 1835, the hills are veiled and only the outlines can be made out. In his photographs, Hütte refers to this tradition and employs similar techniques to guide the viewer’s gaze and to compose the picture. The landscape can be sensually grasped. The atmosphere and the subjective experience come to the fore. While his teachers sought the proximity to sculpture, Hütte’s work reflects the strategies of painting.

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951) 'Furka' 1994 (2012)

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951)
Furka
1994 (2012)
Chromogenic colour print
56.7 × 65.7 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung

 

 

The Silence Beside the Storm

Andreas Gursky’s works are dedicated to traffic hubs, mass events, economic centres, transit zones or places of leisure. Gursky’s focus is always on the common denominator and questions the relationship of man with nature and society. The photograph Teneriffa, Swimming Pool shows a holiday resort from a bird’s eye perspective that makes the tiny holidaymakers almost disappear. The force of nature represented by the foaming sea is in stark contrast with the artificial silence of the adjacent pool.

Like his teachers, Gursky keeps a distance to his subject. But unlike them he does not work in series and concentrates on single works. Bernd and Hilla Becher’s compositions are always about one centrally positioned object. Gursky’s images on the other hand are rich in detail and the motives are spread across the picture plane in captivating sharpness – he plays with visual challenge.

 

Andreas Gursky (b. 1955) 'Teneriffa, Swimming Pool' 1987

 

Andreas Gursky (b. 1955)
Teneriffa, Swimming Pool
1987
Chromogenic colour print
104.5 × 127 cm
On loan from the artist / Courtesy Sprüth Magers

 

 

Own Vantage Points

Candida Höfer too, photographs public spaces. Her photographs follow the architecture of the buildings she finds. At the same time she chooses unusual positions for her camera and thus resists the symmetries or views prescribed by the spaces. Her photos defy architectural hierarchies and structures and thus communicate the spatial experience in a particular way.

Waiting Room Cologne III 1981 is an early example of Höfer’s artistic method. The furniture reaches diagonally into the space, a dynamic underscored by the pattern of the parquet flooring. The row of tables and chairs in the bottom corner is cut off by the edge. Instead of creating a balanced symmetrical composition, she works with alternative vantage points.

This allows Höfer to emphasize her personal view of the interior architecture. Concurrently she is enquiring how the architectural space is influenced by the way people use it in the course of time. The Waiting Room with Neo-Baroque décor dating from the second half of the 19th century forms a stark contrast to the simple furniture that is easily 100 years less old.

“By means of the print I then create my own space once again. It is not my intention to show the space in a manner as realistic as possible.”

 

Candida Höfer (b. 1944) 'Waiting Room Cologne III 1981' 1981

 

Candida Höfer (b. 1944)
Waiting Room Cologne III 1981
1981
Chromogenic colour print
155 × 155 cm
Art Collection Deutsche Börse, Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation

 

 

Libraries as Brand

Above all Candida Höfer is famous for her large-scale interior views of libraries devoid of people. The workspaces in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris are lined up like books in libraries. The artist frequently focuses on places that preserve and order knowledge and culture. Apart from libraries she also worked on museums or operas. She is interested in how humans influence architecture through their culture. Her photos are always determined by a cool sobriety. This is what they have in common with the photographs of the Bechers. However, Höfer always works with the light and the space present in each situation. She strives to capture the atmosphere and aura of a space.

 

Candida Höfer (b. 1944) 'Bibliothèque Nationale de France Paris XIII 1998' 1998

 

Candida Höfer (b. 1944)
Bibliothèque Nationale de France Paris XIII 1998
1998
Chromogenic colour print
155 × 215 cm
Art Collection Deutsche Börse, Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation

 

 

The Picture in the Picture

In his series Museum Photographs Thomas Struth focuses on imposing interior spaces such as the gallery at the Louvre in Paris – unlike Höfer, he always shows the visitors, too. They become a multifaceted continuation of the figures in the paintings on the wall. Through the photograph Struth establishes a connection of pictorial space and real space, the painterly and photographic space. Here, the formerly competing media painting and photography enter into a dialogue as equals.

Simultaneously the viewer is confronted with different levels of viewing: those who contemplate Struth’s photos inevitably also observe the visitors at the Louvre contemplating the art works there. Thus the artist prompts a reflection on how we deal with art and its history, with seeing and being seen. Struth does not influence the positions of the visitors in his Museum Photographs. He waits for situations that can serve as the basis of his compositions. Struth merely decides on the space and the visual angle he takes.

 

Thomas Struth (*1954) 'Louvre 3, Paris 1989' 1989 (2012)

 

Thomas Struth (*1954)
Louvre 3, Paris 1989
1989 (2012)
Chromogenic colour print
152.2 × 168.3 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung im Städel Museum, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

 

 

Family Relations

The photo The Consolandi Family, Milano by Thomas Struth belongs to the series Family Portraits, which shows relationships that are complex and full of tension. The viewer is challenged to explore the connections of the family, reflected in subtle looks, mimics or posture.

The Family Portraits evolved from an unpublished project, which Struth and a friend of his, a psychoanalyst, pursued in the early 1980s. Patients were asked to submit a couple of photographs that were typical of their families, which Struth then combined in a portfolio. Drawing on this project, the photographer began to work with family portraits he took. He photographed people he knew in their homes. The individuals were asked to choose their position in a space that the artist had selected. Struth’s psychological interest in the family as a social fabric is evident. The order resembles a sociagram after all.

Like the Bechers’ works, Struth’s photographs are determined by an intrinsic dynamic full of tension. While his teachers work with industrial fields of force, he balances psychological energies. This results in an alternation of perception – the eye sways between single pictorial elements and the total composition.

 

Thomas Struth (*1954) 'The Consolandi Family, Milan 1996' 1996 (2014)

 

Thomas Struth (*1954)
The Consolandi Family, Milan 1996
1996 (2014)
Chromogenic colour print
178 × 214.2 cm
Art Collection Deutsche Börse, Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation

 

 

PICTURE EDITING

In February 1982 the first great scandal about a digitally edited press picture occurs: for the title of the periodical National Geographic – actually indebted to scientific exactitude – the pyramids at Gizeh have been pushed closer together so they would fit the portrait format. This represents a fundamental shift in photo and media culture that also affects the work of the Becher students.

Ruff, Sasse and Gursky especially, develop their works digitally. This inevitably distances them from their teachers’ documentary approach more and more. The artists do not depict reality they create their own reality. This results in photographs that cannot be explained through analogue camera technology. The truth in the pictures is questioned, just like the viewer’s perception. In nascent form this approach is already present in the typologies created by the Bechers.

 

Digital interventions

This photo of an average residential block from 1987 marks a turning point in Thomas Ruff’s oeuvre. Things – namely a tree and a street sign – are missing. Ruff decided to have these details erased. He also retouched an opened skylight. This is one of the first digitally edited pictures in the circle of the Becher students. Ruff’s idea is to emphasise the symmetrical appearance and the hermetic quality of the building. Still, he is not really meddling with the picture’s structure of reality.

Ruff’s photos of the House Series confront the viewer with urban banality. The enormous scale of the works, measuring nearly 2 x 3 metres exaggerates the uneventfulness as a crucial characteristic of this architecture. From the 1980s the Becher students increasingly use large formats. They become a trademark of the group. Mostly presented with a wooden frame the artists elevate the photos to the level of paintings. Like the Bechers, Ruff worked in series, but no longer arranged his works in typologies. His series preserve the suspicion of a single image that might represent the world.

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) 'House No. 1 I' 1987

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958)
House No. 1 I
1987
Chromogenic colour print
179 × 278 cm
Loan from the artist

 

 

Giant Grid

In photos like Paris, Montparnasse Andreas Gursky enlarges the image to a monumental scale of over four metres in width. He, too, relies on digital editing. The frontal view of the residential block is presented in strictly right-angular lines. The building is so wide that it would be impossible to capture it in a single photo. Hence, Gursky used two photos and joined them on the computer.

From a distance, the geometrical grid of the building looks abstract. The skeleton structure of the block also means that the windows offer hundreds of single images. However, it is impossible to simultaneously perceive the detail as well as the overall structure. Gursky requires the viewer to constantly alternate his focus between close-up and distance.

“My pictures are always composed for two aspects […]. The smallest detail can be read from close up. From afar they are mega-signs.”

 

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

 

Exhibition view “Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class”
Photo: Städel Museum

 

Andreas Gursky (b. 1955) 'Paris, Montparnasse' 1993 (before 2003)

 

Andreas Gursky (b. 1955)
Paris, Montparnasse
1993 (before 2003)
Chromogenic colour print
207 × 422 cm
On loan from the artist / Courtesy Sprüth Magers

 

 

Pixel and Pixel and Pixel

Sasse’s work 1546 (1993) also plays with perception at the border of abstraction. The single pixels as a trace of the digital reworking are immediately visible. The realistic representation of a curtain is ruptured. Instead pixel and square colour fields become the focus, while the original sense of space is lost. The photo appears two-dimensional.

Sasse takes up a basic issue with the illusion of space that has a long art historic tradition. Already in early Renaissance the artist and scholar Leon Battista Alberti considers painting as a window to the world. He considered it important for an illusionist way of painting to conceal the two-dimensionality of the canvas. In his oeuvre Sasses draws on this issue. He questions photography and painting’s claim to realism and questions the possibility of pictorially representing reality at all.

 

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962) 1546, 1993 (centre) and Jörg Sasse (*1962) 7341, 1996 (right)

 

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962) '1546' 1993

 

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962)
1546
1993
Chromogenic colour print
137 × 200 cm
Private collection

 

Jörg Sasse (*1962) '7341' 1996

 

Jörg Sasse (*1962)
7341
1996
Chromogenic colour print
93 x 150 cm
DZ BANK art collection at the Städel Museum
© Jörg Sasse; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

 

 

Städel Museum
Schaumainkai 63
60596 Frankfurt

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Friday – Sunday 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
Wednesday and Thursday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm

Becher Class at the Städel Museum website

Städel Museum website

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25
Jan
17

Exhibition: ‘Surveillance’ at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri

Exhibition dates: 16th September 2016 – 29th January 2017

 

This looks to be a fascinating exhibition on a very interesting subject. It’s such a pity I cannot comment on the exhibition itself due to the small number of media images, and having no idea how the images I do have fit into the themes of the exhibition, although one can make guesses: Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Brussels (1932, below) surveys the watchers; his Hyeres, France (1932, below) is taken by an unseen camera; and Professor Lowe’s balloon Intrepid was used by the Union in the American Civil War to spy on Confederate troop movements. Others I have absolutely no idea.

“Dating from 1864-2014, the works in Surveillance fall under these categories: spying or hidden cameras, photography of the forbidden, military surveillance, areas of heavy surveillance and mapping satellites and drones. There are also examples of counter-surveillance that either prevent watching or surveille the watchers.”

My favourite images in this posting of surreptitious photography are those of Tomas van Houtryve from his series Blue Sky Days. I love the titles play on the ideas of blue sky thinking (original or creative thinking, unfettered by convention and not grounded in reality) and blue skies research (scientific research in domains where “real-world” applications are not immediately apparent) – views of the world that are quantifiable but not grounded in reality, and where the “reality” of the world is not immediately apparent. Such a clever and insightful “point of view” which engages with “the changing nature of surveillance, personal privacy, and war”, a projection on a vertical plane. More intriguing images from this series can be seen on his website.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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Many thankx to the the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photograph for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004) 'Brussels' 1932

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004)
Brussels
1932
Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 × 14 3/16 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,
© Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

 

Henri Cartier Bresson (French, 1908-2004) 'Hyeres, France' 1932

 

Henri Cartier Bresson (French, 1908-2004)
Hyeres, France
1932
Gelatin silver print
© Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum

 

Tomas van Houtryve (Belgian) Schoolyard From the series 'Blue Sky Days' 2013-2014

 

Tomas van Houtryve (Belgian)
Schoolyard
From the series Blue Sky Days
2013-2014
150×100 cm gelatin-silver print

 

Tomas van Houtryve (Belgian) 'Domestic gathering' 2013-2014

 

Tomas van Houtryve (Belgian)
Domestic gathering
From the series Blue Sky Days
2013-2014

 

 

“The images captured from the drone’s perspective engage with the changing nature of surveillance, personal privacy, and war.” ~ Tomas van Houtryve

 

“In October 2012, a drone strike in northeast Pakistan killed a 67-year-old woman picking okra outside her house. At a briefing held in 2013 in Washington, the woman’s 13-year-old grandson, Zubair Rehman, spoke to a group of five lawmakers. “I no longer love blue skies,” said Rehman, who was injured by shrapnel in the attack. “In fact, I now prefer gray skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are gray.”

Over the past decade, drones have become the weapon of the United States military and the CIA for strikes overseas. Their use for surveillance and commercial purposes is also rapidly expanding both at home and abroad.

Tomas van Houtryve attached his camera to a small drone and traveled across America to photograph the very sorts of gatherings that have become habitual targets for foreign air strikes – weddings, funerals, groups of people praying or exercising. He also flew his camera over settings in which drones are used to less lethal effect, such as prisons, oil fields, industrial feedlots, and stretches of the U.S.-Mexico border.”

Text from the Pulitzer Center website

 

Mishka Henner (Belgian, b. 1976) 'Staphorst Ammunition Depot' 2011

 

Mishka Henner (Belgian, b. 1976)
Staphorst Ammunition Depot
2011
Inkjet print
31 1/4 × 35 1/8 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

 

British photographer Mishka Henner, in his series Dutch Landscapes, uses Google satellite views of locations that have been censored by the Dutch government because of concerns about the visibility of political, economic and military locations. Many countries blur, pixilate or whiten sensitive sites. The Dutch method, however, employs bold, multi-colored polygons. The resulting photograph is an artistic, visual contrast between secret sites and the surrounding rural environment, providing an unsettling reflection on surveillance and the contemporary landscape.

 

Unknown maker (American) 'Rochester, New York' 1886

 

Unknown maker (American)
Rochester, New York
1886
Albumen print, 5 5/8 × 5 5/16 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,

 

 

“Surveillance cameras in the 21st century are practically everywhere – on street corners, in shops, in public buildings, silently recording our every movement. Yet this is not a construct of modern times. As soon as cameras were introduced in the 1880s, anyone could be unknowingly photographed at any time. It was an unfortunate fact of life. The exhibition Surveillance opened at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City September 16, examining the role of surreptitious photography from the mid-19th century to the present day.

“This body of work represents a sign of our times,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell CEO and Director of the Nelson-Atkins. “Cameras have been recording our movements, many times secretly, since photography began. But it was the tragedy of 9/11 that increased our awareness of this constant presence and brought a new and chilling meaning to the art, and the intention, of surveillance.”

Dating from 1864-2014, the works in Surveillance fall under these categories: spying or hidden cameras, photography of the forbidden, military surveillance, areas of heavy surveillance and mapping satellites and drones. There are also examples of counter-surveillance that either prevent watching or surveille the watchers.

“Twenty-first century technology – like Google Earth View and drone photography – have provided photographers with a treasure trove of surveillance images,” said Jane L. Aspinwall, Associate Curator, Photography. “This work provokes uneasy questions about who is looking at whom and the limits of artistic expression.”

Photographer Roger Schall, formerly a French news reporter, secretly recorded the Nazi occupation of Paris beginning in June 1940. His photographs document his daily routine and illustrate how completely the Nazis permeated every facet of Parisian life.

British photographer Mishka Henner, in his series Dutch Landscapes, uses Google satellite views of locations that have been censored by the Dutch government because of concerns about the visibility of political, economic and military locations. Many countries blur, pixilate or whiten sensitive sites. The Dutch method, however, employs bold, multi-colored polygons. The resulting photograph is an artistic, visual contrast between secret sites and the surrounding rural environment, providing an unsettling reflection on surveillance and the contemporary landscape.

Other photographers employ techniques to circumvent surveillance. Adam Harvey creates “looks” that block online facial recognition software [CV Dazzle]. The contours of the face are manipulated in such a way that a computer is not able to identify a person, which can be a useful tool for social media sites like Facebook, in which users can search an entire archive for one particular face.”

Press release from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

 

Brady Studio (American active c. 1843-1885) 'Professor Lowe inflating balloon Intrepid' 1862

 

Brady Studio (American, active c. 1843-1885)
Professor Lowe inflating balloon Intrepid
1862
Albumen print
3 1/4 × 2 3/16 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,

 

Intrepid being cross-inflated from Constitution in a spur-of-the-moment attempt to get the larger balloon in the air to overlook the imminent Battle of Seven Pines. The balloon Intrepid, one of six to eventually be constructed by Thaddeus Lowe and the Union Army Balloon Corps.

 

 

Peninsula Campaign

The battlefront turned toward Richmond in the Peninsula Campaign. The heavy forestation inhibited the use of balloons, so Lowe and his Balloon Corps, with the use of three of his balloons, the Constitution, the Washington, and the larger Intrepid, used the waterways to make its way inland. In mid May 1862, Lowe arrived at the White House on the Pamunkey River. This is the first home of George and Martha Washington, after which the Washington presidential residence is named. At this time, it was the home of the son of Robert E. Lee, whose family fled at the arrival of Lowe. Lowe was met by McClellan’s Army a few days later, and by 18 May, he had set up a balloon camp at Gaines’ Farm across the Chickahominy River north of Richmond, and another at Mechanicsville. From these vantage points, Lowe, his assistant James Allen, and his father Clovis were able to overlook the Battle of Seven Pines. 

A small contingent from Gen. Samuel P. Heintzelman’s corps crossed the river toward Richmond and was slowly being surrounded by elements of the Confederate Army. McClellan felt that the Confederates were simply feigning an attack. Lowe could see, from his better vantage point, that they were converging on Heintzelman’s position. Heintzelman was cut off from the main body because the swollen river had taken out all the bridges. Lowe sent urgent word of Heintzelman’s predicament and recommended immediate repair of New Bridge and reinforcements for him. 

At the same time, he sent over an order for the inflation of the Intrepid, a larger balloon that could take him higher with telegraph equipment, in order to oversee the imminent battle. When Lowe arrived from Mechanicsville to the site of the Intrepid at Gaines’ Mill, he saw that the aerostat’s envelope was an hour away from being fully inflated. He then called for a camp kettle to have the bottom cut out of it, and he hooked the valve ends of the Intrepid and the Constitution together. He had the gas of the Constitution transferred to the Intrepid and was up in the air in 15 minutes. From this new vantage point, Lowe was able to report on all the Confederate movements. McClellan took Lowe’s advice, repaired the bridge, and had reinforcements sent to Heintzelman’s aid. An account of the battle was being witnessed by the visiting Count de Joinville who at day’s end addressed Lowe with: “You, sir, have saved the day!”

Text from the Union Army Balloon Corps Wikipedia entry

 

Paul Strand (American 1890-1976) 'Blind woman, New York' 1916

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Blind woman, New York
1916
Photogravure
8 13/16 × 6 9/16 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,

 

Roger Schall (French, 1904-1985) 'Taking the subway' c. 1941

 

Roger Schall (French, 1904-1985)
Taking the subway
c. 1941
Gelatin silver print
7 7/16 × 7 1/16 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of Jeffrey and Polly Kramer

 

 

Born in 1904, Roger Schall was one of the most renowned photographers of the 1930s and 1940s. He worked in all photographic disciplines from fashion, portraits, nudes, still lives and reporting. He began working with his father, a portrait photographer in 1918. 10 years later he would be one of the first reporters to work with a Leica or Rolleiflex. In 1939, he closed the studio-agency he had opened with his brother. From June 1940 to August 1944 he photographed German occupied Paris – hiding the negatives so they would not be seen by the censors. When the occupation was over his brother, Raymond Schall, published a book: A Paris sous la botte des Nazis (Paris under the heel of the Nazis) that was illustrated with the photographs of Roger Schall, Parry, Doisneau, the Seeberger brothers and many others. He then continued working in fashion, doing commercial and publicity work instead of news reporting. From 1970 until his death in 1995, he would manage his archive of some 80,000 images. (Text from the Real Life is Elsewhere blog)

His work covered a number of topics, especially Parisian everyday life, his favourite subject, which he photographed before, during and after the German occupation. Formed in 1931, Le Studio in Montmartre was the first agency to publish his work in leading international magazines, such as Vu, Vogue, L’illustration, Life, and Paris-Match. 150 covers and 10,000 shots were published in his lifetime. (Text from the Yellow Korner website)

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'An Attentive Cat' 1953

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson
An Attentive Cat
1953
Gelatin silver print
© Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum

 

Raphaël Dallaporta (French b. 1980) 'Kafir Qala Citadel, Balkh Province, Afghanistan, from the Achaemenid period (6th-4th century BC) to the Ghorid period (12th-13th century AD)' 2010

 

Raphaël Dallaporta (French b. 1980)
Kafir Qala Citadel, Balkh Province, Afghanistan, from the Achaemenid period (6th-4th century BC) to the Ghorid period (12th-13th century AD)
2010
Inkjet print
59 × 47 1/4 × 1 5/8 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

 

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
4525 Oak Street
Kansas City, MO 64111

Opening hours:
Wed, 10 am – 5 pm
Thurs, Fri, 10 am – 9 pm
Sat, 10 am – 5 pm
Sun, 10 am – 5 pm

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art website

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07
Jul
16

William Blackwood: ‘Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House’ 1858

July 2016

 

We can only imagine the impact viewing this immense panorama (over 3m long) of eleven imperial size, wet plate photographs had on the populace of Sydney. They would have seen little like it before, and of such clarity and quality. I have included text, additional photographs and paintings to help the viewer and researcher position the panorama historically within the context of time and place. For example, note how illustriously and romantically the artist captures every detail in a painting such as Conrad Martens Campbell’s Wharf (1857, below), then notice how rough and ready the sections of this photographic panorama are even as they pertain to the veracity of the occasion. The length of each exposure can be estimated by the movement of the large sailing ship in the centre of section 7 of the panorama – at a guess probably just under a minute.

While larger individual images of the panorama can be found on the State Library of New South Wales website, the whole panorama photograph on that site is very small and gives little idea of how the individual sections concertina out. Some of the images also seem denuded, drained of their colour, probably due to the poor condition of the images (notably sections 2, 8, 9 and 11) . Hopefully these images – which can be reproduced without getting permission from institutions – more fully reflect the beauty and sensitivity of the panorama.

It was a great pleasure to meet collector Dennis Joachim, the owner of this panorama, up at Mossgreen in Armadale, Victoria recently. What a remarkable man and such great energy!

Marcus

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Please click on the long small image below to see the full panorama. Click again to enlarge and scroll from left to right.

 

 

William Blackwood (1824 - 1897) 'Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House' 1858

 

William Blackwood (1824 – 1897)
Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House
1858
12 albumen photoprints (comprising 1 panorama in 11 sections – 1 photoprint) in a leather and gold embossed album
Images 19 x 29 cm
Panorama length 324.5 cm

 

 

“Olaf William Blackwood, also known as William Blackwood, was a portrait painter of Swedish and Scottish descent. It was, however as a professional photographer of panoramic Sydney views that he achieved the greatest success. By 1858, he had established a photographic studio in Woolloomooloo and began photographing surrounding street scenes, using the collodion wet-plate process. He took eleven imperial size, wet plate photographs from the roof of Government House which he then combined to form a large scale Panorama of Sydney Harbour, the first and largest produced in the colony. His panoramic views were met with critical acclaim, and were praised by The Sydney Morning Herald as ‘faultless’, ‘super-excellent’ and the ‘largest yet seen’1

By August, his 180 degree panorama of Sydney Harbour was again praised as ‘superior to anything of the kind we have seen. Nothing dim or smoky appears … no muddled trees – no hazy outlines – no hard sheets of glaring white for water’2 This was the most sophisticated and extensive panorama photography ever produced in Australia. Blackwood published another album that same year consisting of some of the earliest Australian architectural studies, and photographs of Sydney’s nine banks. From a technical point of view, Blackwood’s albums were an extraordinary achievement.

Large format views required extreme skill on the part of the photographer, and he coated his plates and processed them while still wet. In the early 1860s Blackwood worked in partnership with Henry Goodes and they created eight photographic views which were submitted to the New South Wales section of the 1862 London International Exhibition. Between 1862 and 1864, Blackwood worked with James Walker at Walker’s Pitt Street studio. Despite his early, energetic and entrepreneurial projects, little is known of Blackwood’s output after 1859 and he seems to have left photography after 1864.”

  1. Sydney Morning Herald, 26 March 1858
  2. Sydney Morning Herald, 4 August 1858

Text from the Mossgreen website

 

William Blackwood (1824 - 1897) 'Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House' 1858 front cover

 

Blackwood’s Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House 1858 front cover

 

William Blackwood (1824 - 1897) 'Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House' 1858 section 1

 

Blackwood’s Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House 1858 section 1

Entrance to Government House, Macquarie Street, city view including Customs House, Sydney Cove

 

William Blackwood (1824 - 1897) 'Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House' 1858 section 2

 

Blackwood’s Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House 1858 section 2

Entrance to Government House, Macquarie Street, city view including Customs House, Sydney Cove.
(The Customs House is horizontally left of the tall ship’s mast with the row of double windows)

 

Charles Percy Pickering. 'Customs House' 1872

 

Charles Percy Pickering
Customs House
1872
New South Wales. Government Printing Office
Collection of the State Library of New South Wales

 

 

The Customs House is an historic Sydney landmark located in the city’s Circular Quay area. Constructed initially in 1844-1845, the building served as the headquarters of the Customs Service until 1990. The driving force behind the construction of the original sandstone edifice on Circular Quay was Colonel John George Nathaniel Gibbes, the Collector of Customs for New South Wales for a record term of 25 years from 1834 to 1859. Colonel Gibbes persuaded the Governor of New South Wales, Sir George Gipps, to begin construction of the Customs House in 1844 in response to Sydney’s growing volume of maritime trade. The building project also doubled as an unemployment relief measure for stonemasons and laborers during an economic depression which was afflicting the colony at the time.

The two-storey Georgian structure was designed by Mortimer Lewis and featured 13 large and expensive windows in the facade to afford a clear view of shipping activity in Sydney Cove. Colonel Gibbes, who dwelt opposite Circular Quay on Kirribilli Point, was able to watch progress on the Customs House’s construction from the verandah of his private residence, Wotonga House (now Admiralty House). The Customs House opened for business in 1845 and replaced cramped premises at The Rocks. It was partially dismantled and expanded to three levels under the supervision of the then Colonial Architect, James Barnet, in 1887. Various additions were made over the next century, particularly during the period of the First World War, but some significant vestiges of the original Gibbes-Lewis building remain. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

William Blackwood (1824 - 1897) 'Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House' 1858 section 3

 

Blackwood’s Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House 1858 section 3

City view, Sydney Cove, The Rocks, Campbell’s Wharf and Dawes Point

 

Conrad Martens (England 1801 - Australia 1878; Australia from 1835) 'Campbell's Wharf' 1857

 

Conrad Martens (England 1801 – Australia 1878; Australia from 1835)
Campbell’s Wharf
1857
Watercolour with highlights in gum arabic
Image 46.0 h x 66.0 w cm sheet 46.0 h x 66.0 w cm
National Gallery of Australia

 

 

From his arrival in 1835 until his death in 1878, Conrad Martens was the most celebrated artist in Sydney. Although a skilled painter in oils, his greatest works were executed in watercolour, and Campbell’s Wharf is among his most ambitious compositions. Commissioned by John Campbell in 1857, the work portrays the income source of the Campbell family, whose eighteenth and nineteenth century business interests encompassed wharfing, storing and merchant shipping.

On the right is Campbell’s Wharf and warehouses that stretched along the west side of Sydney Cove. To their left are the old Campbell residence and the new Mariners Church. In the centre of the painting rises the four-storied Miles Building, and to its left juts the Cumberland Place buildings along the skyline. All this is viewed through a jumble of trading vessels, the source of the Campbell family wealth. The painting is, however, more than a depiction of maritime industry and family property. Martens was well acquainted with the work of the British painter JMW Turner, whose romantic landscapes are suffused with delicate evocations of light. Silhouetted against a soft pink sky, Martens transforms an industrial setting into a picturesque landscape awash with luminous colour.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014

 

William Blackwood (1824 - 1897) 'Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House' 1858 section 4

 

Blackwood’s Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House 1858 section 4

City view, Sydney Cove, The Rocks, Campbell’s Wharf & Dawes Point

 

 

Dawes Point, New South Wales

By the 1840s the people of Dawes Point and Millers Point were a maritime community in which rich and poor mixed more than elsewhere in Sydney. Wharf owners and traders lived and worked beside those who worked on the wharves and bond stores, as well as those who arrived and left on ships. Only two of the merchant houses, built by and for the early wharf owners, survive. One is Walker’s 50-foot wide villa built around 1825 and now part of Milton Terrace at 7-9 Lower Fort Street; the other is the home and offices of Edwards and Hunter, built in 1833 above their wharves which is where the Wharf Theatre now stands.

The fortunes of Dawes Point and Millers Point fluctuated more than elsewhere in Sydney. Mostly prosperous in its early years, the area was less desirable by the 1890s, and in 1900 there was a catastrophic event that led to a complete reshaping of Millers Point. At the beginning of the 20th century the government compulsorily acquired all private wharves, homes and commercial properties in the Rocks, Dawes Point and Millers Point. Modern and efficient wharves with dual level access were built, as well as new accommodation for workers, such as the Workers Flats of Lower Fort Street designed by Government Architect Vernon.

Most people still believe this redevelopment can be attributed entirely to an outbreak of plague in 1900, with the government acting benevolently as it demolished homes as well as wharves, and not for the last time decimated a community, while presenting their actions as ‘slum clearance’. In the 1960s and ’70s the government tried again to clear the area and build high-rise offices, but this was thwarted by the Green Bans, supported community and unions. In 2016, the NSW Government is again ‘relocating’ the long-term community of Dawes Point, Millers Point and The Rocks, and only a handful of these residents remain, while the majority of houses and flats along Lower Fort Street and Trinity Avenue are vacant. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

William Blackwood (1824 - 1897) 'Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House' 1858 section 5

 

Blackwood’s Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House 1858 section 5

Sydney Harbour, Fort Macquarie, views to the North Shore

 

 

North Shore

Before British settlement, the Lower North Shore was home to the Gorualgal (Mosman and southern Willoughby) and Cammeraygal (North Sydney and Eastern Lane Cove). After the establishment of Sydney in 1788, settlement of the North Shore of the harbour was quite limited. One of the first settlers was James Milson who lived in the vicinity of Jeffrey Street in Kirribilli, directly opposite Sydney Cove. The north shore was more rugged than the southern shore and western areas of the harbour and had limited agricultural potential. The early activities in the area included tree felling, boatbuilding and some orchard farming in the limited areas of good soil. The North Shore railway line was built in the 1890s. Access to the Sydney CBD, located on the southern shore of the harbour remained difficult until the completion of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932. This led to commencement the development of suburbs on the North Shore. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

William Blackwood (1824 - 1897) 'Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House' 1858 section 6

 

Blackwood’s Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House 1858 section 6

Sydney Harbour, Fort Macquarie (Bennelong Point/Opera House), views to the North Shore

 

 

Fort Macquarie (Bennelong Point/Opera House)

Fort Macquarie was a square castellated battlement fort built at Bennelong Point, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, where the Sydney Opera House now stands. A half moon battery on the east point of Bennelong Point was constructed in May 1798 when the ship HMS Supply was withdrawn from service, Lieutenant William Kent and crew were assigned to man the battery. The battery consisted of some of the guns taken from HMS Supply.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie directed that a fort be built between December 1817 to February 1821 under the direction of Francis Greenway. The fort was named after Governor Lachlan Macquarie. It was a square fort with circular bastions at each corner and a castellated square tower. The battery consisted of fifteen pieces of ordnance: ten 24-pounders and five 6-pounders. Three sides of the fort abutted Sydney Harbour. The two-storey tower in the middle of the fort, housed a guardroom and storehouse. The tower was 27.4 m (90 ft) in circumference. A powder magazine capable of storing 350 barrels of gunpowder was constructed underneath and the tower could provide accommodation for a small military detachment of 1 officer and 18 men, with stores for the battery. A drawbridge, on the landward side, over a small channel leading to a gate beneath the tower provided entry to the fort.

Fort Macquarie was demolished in 1901 to make way for new electric tramway sheds named Fort Macquarie Tram Depot. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Bennelong Point

The point was originally a small tidal island, Bennelong Island, that largely consisted of rocks with a small beach on the western side. The island was located on the tip of the eastern arm of Sydney Cove and was apparently separated from the mainland at high tide. For a brief period in 1788, this relatively isolated protrusion into Port Jackson (Sydney’s natural harbour) was called Cattle Point as it was used to confine the few cattle and horses that had been brought from Cape Town by Governor Phillip with the First Fleet.

The area at that time was also strewn with discarded oyster shells from many long years of gathering by the local aboriginal women. Those shells were regathered by the newly arrived convict women and burnt to make lime for cement mortar. The point was called Limeburners’ Point for that reason, though those shells only furnished enough lime to make a single building, the two-storey government house. In the early 1790s, the Aborigine Bennelong – employed as a cultural interlocutor by the British – persuaded New South Wales Governor Arthur Phillip to build a brick hut for him on the point, giving it its name.

In the period from 1818 to 1821, the tidal area between Bennelong Island and the mainland was filled with rocks excavated from the Bennelong Point peninsula. The entire area was leveled to create a low platform and to provide suitable stone for the construction of Fort Macquarie. While the fort was being built, a large portion of the rocky escarpment at Bennelong Point was also cut away to allow a road to be built around the point from Sydney Cove to Farm Cove. This was known as Tarpeian Way. The existence of the original tidal island and its rubble fill were largely forgotten until the late 1950s when both were rediscovered during the excavations related to the construction of the Sydney Opera House. Prior to the Opera House’s construction, Bennelong Point had housed Fort Macquarie Tram Depot. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Kerry & Co. 'Fort Macquarie' 1870

 

Kerry & Co.
Fort Macquarie
1870
Albumen photograph
From the collections of the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

Fort Macquarie was built on the end of Bennelong Point, where the Sydney Opera House now stands. Completed by convict labour in 1821 using stone from the Domain, the fort had 15 guns and housed a small garrison. The powder magazine beneath the tower was capable of storing 350 barrels of gunpowder. The fort was demolished in 1901 to make way for the tramway sheds that occupied the site until the construction of the Utzon masterpiece

 

Kerry & Co. 'Fort Macquarie' 1870

 

Kerry & Co.
Fort Macquarie
1870
Albumen photograph
From the collections of the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

Anonymous. 'The tram shed at Bennelong Point before the Sydney Opera House was built' 1952

 

Anonymous
The tram shed at Bennelong Point before the Sydney Opera House was built
1952

 

William Blackwood (1824 - 1897) 'Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House' 1858 section 7

 

Blackwood’s Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House 1858 section 7

Sydney Harbour view, sailing ships, Fort Denison (to the far right in the distance), Garden Island, Lady Macquarie’s Chair

 

Anonymous. 'SS Nieuw Holland passing Fort Denison, Sydney Harbour' c. 1930

 

Anonymous
SS Nieuw Holland passing Fort Denison, Sydney Harbour
c. 1930
Australian National Maritime Museum collection

 

Fort Denison was built on an island that was known to Indigenous people in the area as Muddawahnyuh, meaning ‘rocky island’. After European settlement in 1788 the island was called Pinchgut by convicts who were marooned there with meagre rations of bread and water as punishment for serious breaches of the peace. The island was originally a 15 metre sandstone rock, but during the 1800s it was excavated to provide sandstone to build Circular Quay, at that time the centre of shipping in Sydney.

 

Anonymous. 'Fort Denison' c. 1930

 

Anonymous
Fort Denison
c. 1930
Glass negative, quarter plate
Tom Lennon Photographic Collection from the Powerhouse Museum

 

 

Fort Denison

In 1839, two American warships entered the harbour at night and circled Pinchgut Island. Concern with the threat of foreign attack caused the government to review the harbour’s inner defences. Barney, who had earlier reported that Sydney’s defences were inadequate, recommended that the government establish a fort on Pinchgut Island to help protect Sydney Harbour from attack by foreign vessels. Fortification of the island began in 1841 but was not completed. Construction resumed in 1855 because of fear of a Russiannaval attack during the Crimean War, and was completed on 14 November 1857. The newly built fort then took its current name from Sir William Thomas Denison, the Governor of New South Wales from 1855 to 1861.

The fortress features a distinctive Martello tower, the only one ever built in Australia and the last one ever constructed in the British Empire. It was constructed using 8,000 tonnes (7,900 long tons) of sandstone from nearby Kurraba Point, Neutral Bay. The tower’s walls are between 3.3-6.7 metres (11-22 ft) thick at the base and 2.7 metres (8 ft 10 in) thick at the top. However, developments in artillery rendered the fort largely obsolete by the time it was completed. The tower itself had quarters for a garrison of 24 soldiers and one officer. Fort Denison’s armament included three 8-inch (200 mm) muzzle loaders in the tower, two 10-inch (250 mm) guns, one on a 360-degree traverse on the top of the tower and one in a bastion at the other end of the island, and twelve 32-pound (15 kg) cannons in a battery between the base of the tower and the flanking bastion. Eventually all the guns were removed, except for the three 8-inch (200 mm) muzzle-loading cannons in the gun room in the tower, which were installed before construction was complete. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

George Roberts (c. 1800-1865) '[Mrs Macquarie's chair]' c. 1843-1865

 

George Roberts (c. 1800-1865)
[Mrs Macquarie’s chair]
c. 1843-1865
Watercolour
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Mrs Macquarie's Chair, Sydney' c. 1870-1875

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company
Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, Sydney (B. O. Holtermann seated at centre)
c. 1870-1875
State Library of New South Wales

 

 

Bernhardt Otto Holtermann

Bernhardt Otto Holtermann (29 April 1838 – 29 April 1885) was a successful gold miner, businessman, sponsor of photography for the encouragement of immigration and member of parliament. Perhaps his greatest claim to fame is his association with the Holtermann Nugget, the largest gold specimen ever found, 1.5 meters (59 inches) long, weighing 286 kg (630 pounds), in Hill End, near Bathurst, and with an estimated gold content of 3000 troy ounces (93 kg).

Holtermann financed and possibly participated in photographer Beaufoy Merlin’s project to photograph New South Wales and exhibit the results abroad to encourage immigration. The work was taken up after Merlin’s death in 1873 by his assistant, Charles Bayliss. In 1875, Holtermann and Bayliss produced the Holtermann panorama, a series of “23 albumen silver photographs which join together to form a continuous 978-centimetre view of Sydney Harbour and its suburbs.” Some of the photographs, including the panorama, were displayed at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, where they won a bronze medal. The panorama was also displayed at the 1878 Exposition Universelle Internationale in Paris. 

Almost seventy years after Holtermann’s death, more than 3,000 of the glass negatives created by Merlin and Bayliss were retrieved from a garden shed in the Sydney suburb of Chatswood. The UNESCO-listed collection of negatives, known as The Holtermann Collection, is housed in the State Library of New South Wales. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Mrs Macquarie’s Chair

Mrs Macquarie’s Chair (also known as Lady Macquarie’s Chair) is an exposed sandstone rock cut into the shape of a bench, on a peninsula in Sydney Harbour, hand carved by convicts from sandstone in 1810 for Governor Macquarie’s wife Elizabeth. The peninsula itself is named Mrs Macquarie’s Point, and is part of the The Domain, near the Royal Botanic Gardens. Mrs Macquarie was the wife of Major-General Lachlan Macquarie, Governor of New South Wales from 1810 to 1821. Folklore has it that she used to sit on the rock and watch for ships from Great Britain sailing into the harbour. She was known to visit the area and sit enjoying the panoramic views of the harbour.

Above the chair is a stone inscription referring to Mrs Macquarie’s Road. That road was built between 1813 and 1818, and ran from the original Government House (now the Museum of Sydney) to Mrs Macquarie’s Point. It was built on the instruction of Governor Macquarie for the benefit of his wife. There is no remaining evidence of the original road, other than a culvert over which the road ran. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

William Blackwood (1824 - 1897) 'Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House' 1858 section 8

 

Blackwood’s Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House 1858 section 8

Sydney Harbour view, sailing ships, Fort Denison, Garden Island, Lady Macquarie’s Chair

 

William Blackwood (1824 - 1897) 'Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House' 1858 section 9

 

Blackwood’s Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House 1858 section 9

Farm Cove, views to Potts Point and Darlinghurst

 

William Blackwood (1824 - 1897) 'Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House' 1858 section 10

 

Blackwood’s Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House 1858 section 10

Farm Cove, views to Potts Point and Darlinghurst

 

 

Potts Point is named for Joseph Hyde Potts, who was employed by the Bank of New South Wales. He purchased six-and-a-half acres of harbourside land in an area then known as Woolloomooloo Hill – which he renamed Potts Point. Much of the area that today comprises Potts Point and the adjacent suburb of Elizabeth Bay, originally constituted part of a land grant to Alexander Macleay, who was the New South Wales Colonial Secretary from 1826 to 1837, and for whom Macleay Street is named. NSW Judge Advocate, John Wylde (for whom Wylde Street is named) was another 19th-century public servant who owned land in the area.

 

William Blackwood (1824 - 1897) 'Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House' 1858 section 11

 

Blackwood’s Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House 1858 section 11

The Government Domain, Government House Stables

 

William Blackwood (1824 - 1897) 'Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House' 1858 Government House

 

Blackwood’s Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House 1858

Government House with porte cochère

 

 

In 1845 the British government agreed that a new Government House in Sydney had become a necessity, and the royal architect, Edward Blore, was instructed to draw up plans. Construction commenced in 1837 and was supervised by colonial architect Mortimer Lewisand Colonel Barney of the Royal Engineers. Stone, cedar, and marble for the construction were obtained from various areas of New South Wales. A ball in honour of the birthday of Queen Victoria was held in the new building in 1843, although construction was not complete. The first resident, Governor George Gipps, did not move in until 1845.

Government House, with its setting on Sydney Harbour, has a garden area of 5 hectares and is located south of the Sydney Opera House, overlooking Farm Cove. It was designed in a romantic Gothic revival style – castellated, crenellated, turreted and is decorated with oil portraits and the coats of arms of its successive occupants. Additions have included a front portico in 1873, an eastern verandah in 1879 and extensions to the ballroom and governor’s study in 1900-01. (Text from Wikipedia website)

Definition of porte cochère. 1: a passageway through a building or screen wall designed to let vehicles pass from the street to an interior courtyard. 2: a roofed structure extending from the entrance of a building over an adjacent driveway and sheltering those getting in or out of vehicles.

 

John Paine. 'The entrance gates of Government House, Sydney' c. 1878

 

John Paine
The entrance gates of Government House, Sydney
c. 1878
Albumen print
15 x 20.4 cm
Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection

 

 

The Government House entrance gates and guardhouse, completed in 1848, are shown here in their original location on Macquarie Street. The elaborate iron gates were supported by six sandstone piers: in the centre was the ceremonial entrance, marked by metalwork lanterns complete with crowns, and this was flanked by two carriage gates and a pair of pedestrian gates. The design of the gates and guardhouse is attributed to the Colonial Architect Mortimer Lewis, the gatehouse being identical to the ‘Forest Gate Keeper’s Lodge’ illustrated in H B Zeigler’s ‘The Royal Lodges in Windsor Great Park’ (1839) The Gothic Revival guardhouse consisted of four rooms to accommodate the guard, with open verandahs on two sides, and it was to also serve the Treasury, completed on the opposite side of Macquarie Street c1850 (also designed by Lewis). The entrance gates and guardhouse, as a Gothic style entrance lodge, were consistent with Picturesque ideals for the entrance to a large estate and formed an appropriately imposing entrance to the vice regal residence.

 

William Blackwood (1824 - 1897) 'Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House' 1858 back cover

 

Blackwood’s Panorama of Sydney & Harbour from Government House 1858 back cover

 

 

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06
Jun
16

Exhibition: ‘Jan Senbergs: Observation – Imagination’ at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 18th March – 12th June 2016

 

You only have five days left to catch what I consider to be one of the best exhibitions I have seen this year in Melbourne.

If ever there was a man deserving of a large retrospective, it is Jan Senbergs. This wondrous, intelligent, immersive exhibition by this iconic Australian artist is a joy. Particularly so as you witness the gestation of the artist, the journey from very first exhibition to latest work.

Witness is a particularly apt metaphor for Senbergs – he is a witness to the world who uses his imagination to create, as he says, “maybe something architectonic or machine-like, but not quite: and ambiguous … I was trying to create something irrational, something out of the imagination but belonging to the world.” He belongs to the world but creates things not of the world as we know it. It is a twisted world n/visioned in multiple forms. Twisted labyrinthine structures – mechanistic, naturalistic, humanistic – swirling around in his head, put down as marks on paper, synthetic polymer paint on canvas.

Mark making is important to this man. He maps mechanistic and biomorphic elements, always intelligently informed by sources as diverse as “literature, history, architecture and non-Western art, and finds imagery within obscure technical journals, ancient mythology and illustrated encyclopedias.” His influences are various – German Expressionism, Max Beckmann, Neo-Expressionist painting of the early 1980s, Brutalism, Eduardo Paolozzi, Pop Art and the writing of American postmodernist author Donald Bartheme – to name but a few. And his perspective is unique, as John Olsen insightfully observes, “not often on the vanishing point, but … more related to the spatial  orientation in Chinese or Islamic art. This kind of perspective gives weight to an object; the sensation is abrupt and very blunt, ideally related to his vision.”

Standing in front of the huge six painting wall of Senbergs’ Antarctic paintings you feel the power of that (topographical? analytical? cut-away) vision. I dare you not to.

There are downsides. When they do appear in his paintings, his literal figures and landscapes (such as people, boats and bays), are weak. But that’s not what this artist is about. His screen print work of the mid to late 1970s lead him into a formally stylistic dead end. But he was an intelligent enough artist to recognise it as such and returned to mark making: “But it was a period when I was getting too confident. It was time to leave it alone, go back to the mark.” And his popularist map paintings of Sydney and Melbourne, painted in a brighter colour palette, don’t have the depth of feeling and response to the world that other works possess.

His limited colour palette – all blacks and subdued colours in the early enamel work; green and browns in the 1970s work; greys, blacks and beiges in the early 1980s; blues and greens with splashes of colour for the Antarctic and mining paintings; through to the more colourful map paintings of the 1990s and the recent oranges of the bushfire paintings – has always given weight to the object, weight to his constructed upside-down world, weight to his vision of a place where anything might happen. And frequently does.

Irrational, perhaps (but the irrational can only exist if there is the rational).
Something out of the imagination but belonging to the world, indubitably.
A world that is neither dysfunctional in vision nor balance.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

.
Many thankx to the National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish the artworks in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

This is the first comprehensive retrospective of renowned Melbourne artist Jan Senbergs. Throughout his long career, Senbergs’ work has been characterised by a fundamental humanist vision, a finely-honed sense of the absurd, and a rigorous studio practice spanning printmaking, drawing and painting. He is considered to be amongst Australia’s leading