Archive for the 'printmaking' Category

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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09
Mar
18

Review: ‘Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco’ at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 17th November 2017 – 12th March 2018

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'I’m going through changes' 2016

 

Del Kathryn Barton
I’m going through changes
2016
Synthetic polymer paint and fibre-tipped pen on canvas
200.0 x 180.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

 

Hocus pocus, mumbo jumbo

Meaningless talk or activity / a form of words used by a person performing conjuring tricks.
Language or ritual causing or intended to cause confusion or bewilderment.

 

I have never been convinced by the work Del Kathryn Barton and this medium-sized exhibition at NGV Australia does absolutely nothing to change my mind.

Replete with the artist’s usual cacophony of tits, vulva and penises, the works mine various forms: sculpture, drawing, painting, film and collage; have multiple influences: Louise Bourgeois, Max Ernst, Barbara Kruger to name a few; and investigate numerous concepts such as the fluidity of gender, the link between human and animal forms, women’s genitalia and the blooming of flowers, the ornate decoration of species, “the strength of women, the visceral power of female sexuality and … Barton’s multiple interests in feminism, nature and the maternal figure.” Too much she cried!

Barton has a certain facility in the drawing of line, but this is too often overwhelmed by her inability to let negative space speak for itself. Every work is filled to the brim with vacuous detail, then overlaid with multicoloured polka dots in both collages and paintings (see the detail of her work in the face of cosmic odds, 2016 below), as though this device will tie all the works together. Her signature paintings of women have surface presence, are “just so meticulously attractive”, but absolutely lack what Barton is seeking – “so inexplicably intimate, so beyond, so seemingly effortless that there can be no defence. In these moments there is an opening-up within the body, the mind, within all the senses …” I felt nothing of that when looking at these works – no connection to an inner self or ‘the vast ocean of the collective-consciousness’.

Barton’s inability to engage the viewer in an intimate dialogue of body and mind can be seen in both text and graphic.

“today my body is feeling love
you fell into my flesh…… and we are fresh…… again
the unflesh are so clean somehow….. and their stirrings inform our smallness….. so that we are still small”

You fell into my flesh and we are fresh again. Please.

Then you look at the line work in volcanic woman (2016, below) as “these women erupt upward, as molten liquid bodies of agency. They display their genitals as though it is from their vaginas that the Earth’s energy spills forth,” and note the caricaturesque drawings lack any sense of intimacy or sensuality despite the subject matter. I think about Barton’s hero Louise Bourgeois and her work “10 AM IS WHEN YOU COME TO ME” (2006, below). Both works are displayed in a grid and produced in the same colour but the difference could not be more stark: Bourgeois’ use of negative space, the quiet sensitivity, eroticism and the superb intimacy of the work is the antithesis of Barton’s sexual megalomania. So often in art, less is more but Barton never seems to understand the adage.

To use Christopher Allen’s turn of phrase about the NGV Triennial, Barton’s works are “frenetically busy, but inherently insipid,” despite the overabundance / reliance on the display of sexual organs and excretions. While the artist desperately wants the viewer to be drawn into an intimate embrace with the supposed psychological and spiritual meanings of the work, the lack of emotional, sensual or erotic sensation negates any feeling towards it. Barton’s meaninglessness talk using confusing iconographies lays a surface trap for the viewer, taken in by decoration and sexual abundance. But if you look beyond the psychedelic aesthetic and decorative surfaces it’s just a conjuring trick, ritual representation as pseudo-spiritual experience.

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.

 

The NGV presents a major solo exhibition of one of Australia’s most popular artists, Del Kathryn Barton. Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco reveals the artist’s imaginative and deeply sensuous world, where ornately decorated species – both human and animal – are rendered in seductive line and colour. Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco is a survey of new and recent work by the two times Archibald Portrait Prize winner that reveals the breadth of Barton’s practice. Featuring comprehensive displays of recent paintings and drawings for which she is arguably best known, the exhibition also includes collage, sculpture, textiles and film, all drawn together by the artist’s exuberant and psychedelic aesthetic.

 

 

“The creatures are so gorgeous. They’re just so meticulously attractive, I’m never repulsed. Without the darkness Barton seems to think is there, what is left? Passive psychedelia? I believe Barton feels intensely, but a second-hand trip, like a dream told to a friend, is never as emotional as the teller thinks it is.”

.
Victoria Perrin1

 

“I had a weak-at-the-knees, tingle-all-over moment when I saw Louise Bourgeois’ work for the first time about fifteen years ago in Los Angeles. Yes I am a CRAZY fan. And, yes, it’s true I lay under her big spider in Tokyo and cried…

These are the releases I hope for in our vast world of art. Encounters when the artwork is somehow so inexplicably intimate, so beyond, so seemingly effortless that there can be no defence. In these moments there is an opening-up within the body, the mind, within all the senses … an experience of recognition, relief and awe that informs one’s deeper creative makeup.”

.
Del Kathryn Barton

 

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the inside another land series (2017, detail)
Photos: © Tom Ross

 

 

In this series of seventy-five montages that combine digital collage with hand painted details, Barton creates post-human visions in which women’s bodies are both human and plant. The Dadaists used collage to access the Freudian domain of the unconscious mind, and the great Dada artist Hannah Höch was a key proponent of photomontage in her exploration of the role of women in a changing world. Like the Surrealists, Barton uses collage as a method to critique the illusion of a defined and orderly world, in favour of absurdity. The visual delirium of these works induces a kind of hallucinatory experience in which new creatures seem possible.

It is widely understood that flowers symbolise female sexuality: their physical resemblance to women’s genitalia is coupled with an associative significance in their blooming, which invokes the creation of new life in birth. The history of floral representation strongly binds femininity and flowers, from the Greek nymph Chloris and her Roman counterpart Flora, who oversaw spring and flowers, to Sigmund Freud who was very clear on the matter: ‘Blossoms and flowers represent the female genitals, or more particularly, virginity. Do not forget that the blossoms are really the genitals of the plants’. (Wall text)

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

 

Del Kathryn Barton
inside another land (details)
2017
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'you’re not a bit ashamed' 2017

 

Del Kathryn Barton
you’re not a bit ashamed
2017
Synthetic polymer paint and ink on paper
152.0 x 194.0 cm (image and sheet)
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'to speak of anger, I will take care' 2017

 

Del Kathryn Barton
to speak of anger, I will take care
2017
Synthetic polymer paint and ink on paper
152.0 x 194.0 cm (image and sheet)
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the work briefly turned into dreams (2016)
Photos: © Tom Ross

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'briefly turned into dreams' 2016 (detail)

 

Del Kathryn Barton
briefly turned into dreams (detail)
2016
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Del Kathryn Barton
come home to me
2014-2017
Gouache and ink on hot pressed paper
Collection of the artist. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery and A3

 

 

The flexibility of language is revealed in come home to me. Barton loves language but at the same time questions its ability to communicate. The floating words are a strategy for awakening us to the various, infinite and slippery meaning of words. Like poetry, Barton’s fiercely non-didactic texts are open to diverse understandings. There is no wrong or right interpretation of these texts. Without dictating the associations these words create in each of our minds, Barton evokes sensual delights and pleasures of the flesh. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring a detail from the work come home to me (2014-2017)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'mud monster' 2014 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'mud monster' 2014 (detail)

 

Del Kathryn Barton
mud monster (details)
2014
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the I am flesh again series (2008)
Photos: © Tom Ross

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring a detail from the I am flesh again series (2008)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'I am flesh again' 2008 (detail)

 

Del Kathryn Barton
I am flesh again (detail)
2008
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the photogravure work the stars eat your body (2009) and the bronze up in this (2012) top; and the bronze i can grow you more, drunk on its own nectar (2017) bottom

 

 

Two-time Archibald prize-winner Del Kathryn Barton is being celebrated in the largest ever exhibition of her work to date at NGV Australia. Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco features 150 new and recent works by Barton, including her famed kaleidoscopic portraits, a never-before-seen large-scale sculpture in homage to her mother and Barton’s short film RED, starring Australian actress and Academy Award-winner Cate Blanchett.

‘With a practice spanning art, fashion and film, Barton’s psychedelic images reveal her personal responses to the human experience. She is one of Australia’s most popular artists, renowned for her highly intricate and distinctive hybrid forms, that break down boundaries between humans and nature’, said Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV.

This show is deeply personal for Barton with the debut of her new sculpture, at the foot of your love, which has been created in response to her mother’s terminal illness. Completed in 2017 and comprised of printed silk and Huon pine, the sculpture is reflective of Barton’s reoccurring themes of motherhood and nature. Featuring a wooden conch shell and an enormous silk ‘handkerchief’, the work is symbolic of Barton’s grief for her own mother.

Comprised of five panels and over 10 metres in length, sing blood-wings sing is Barton’s newest and largest painting to date. The painting features a female-focused reimagining of the 1963 Peter, Paul and Mary coming-of-age song, Puff the Magic Dragon. Barton often listens to the folk tune whilst working in her studio as a symbolic reminder to maintain her childlike curiosity through her artistic practice. Barton’s interpretation of the song and its meaning is depicted by four breasted, rainbow coloured dragons. In her signature style, she blurs human, mythological and animal representations in art, encouraging her audience to see how imagination and desire can test traditional forms.

The exhibition also features Barton’s acclaimed film RED, where Cate Blanchett plays a mother re-enacting the redback spider’s deadly mating ritual, alongside actor Alex Russell, Sydney Dance Company’s Charmene Yap and Barton’s own daughter Arella. In RED Barton conveys the strength of women, the visceral power of female sexuality and encapsulates Barton’s multiple interests in feminism, nature and the maternal figure.

Born in Sydney in 1972, Barton graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, Sydney, in 1993. She won her first Archibald prize in 2008 for her self-portrait with her two children and then again in 2013 for her portrait of Australian actor Hugo Weaving.

Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco is one of five solo exhibitions by leading Australian artists for NGV Australia’s 2017-18 summer program. The exhibition is on display at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne from 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018.

Press release from the NGV

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

sing blood-wings sing (2017)

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018.
Photos: © Tom Ross

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'the highway is a disco' 2015

 

Del Kathryn Barton
the highway is a disco
2015
Synthetic polymer paint and fibre-tipped pen on canvas
Private collection, Austria
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'I want to love you' 2016

 

Del Kathryn Barton
I want to love you
2016
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the work at the foot of your love (2017)
Photos: © Tom Ross

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the work at the foot of your love (2017)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

at the foot of your love  (2017) was made by Barton as she prepared for her mother’s death. The fabric represents a handkerchief for the tears of all children who mourn their mother’s departure. The wooden conch shell is envisaged by the artist as a boat on which to sail into the darkness of eternity and ‘the vast ocean of the collective-consciousness’. It celebrates home and place, since the Huon Pine tree, from which the work is made, is a precious and endangered timber of Australia, subject to decay. (Wall text)

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'of pink planets' 2014

 

Del Kathryn Barton
of pink planets
2014
Collection of Boris Tosic, Sydney
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

 

In this work a creature with the head of a wallaby and the tail of a snake looks as though it might suckle from one of the woman’s five breasts. The breast is a dual organ, both of pleasure and sustenance, and multiple breasts suggest abundant life energy. Symbolically, the multi-breasted woman recalls the mythological icon Artemis of Ephesus, goddess of the wilderness, the hunt, wild animals and fertility. In some interpretations of the iconography, the nodes on Artemis’s chest are said to be the testes of bulls sacrificed to her. This fluidity of gender, human and animal forms is a strong current in Barton’s art. (Wall text)

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'openly song' 2014

 

Del Kathryn Barton
openly song
2014
Private collection, Melbourne
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'or fall again' 2014

 

Del Kathryn Barton
or fall again
2014
Collection of Leonard Warson, Melbourne
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

 

The tangled and lush floral decoration of Barton’s paintings recreates the millefleur (1000 flowers) technique of late Middle Ages to early Renaissance tapestries, distinguished by a lack of uniform pattern. The medieval period is sometimes perceived as a time of pagan superstition when the mysteries of nature and humanity were still full of wonder and darkness, and the unknown and unexplained were revered. Barton’s works evoke this period and direct viewers to a mysteriously interconnected world where spirit, psyche, natural cycles and the body are interconnected in intimate, unknowable relationships. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring a detail from the work or fall again (2014)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring a detail from the work in the face of cosmic odds (2016)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'See ya mumma' 2016

 

Del Kathryn Barton
See ya mumma
2016
Synthetic polymer paint and fibre-tipped pen on canvas
140.0 x 160.0 cm
Collection of Brooke Horne, Sydney
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'is the energy' 2014

 

Del Kathryn Barton
is the energy
2014
Private collection, Melbourne
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'girl as sorcerery figure' 2005

 

Del Kathryn Barton
girl as sorcerery figure
2005
Collection of Jane Badler, Melbourne
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Del Kathryn Barton
girl #8 (installation view)
2004
Fibre-tipped pen, gouache, watercolour and synthetic polymer paint on canvas
Art Gallery of New South Wales
© Del Kathryn Barton
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

Louise Bourgeois. '10 AM IS WHEN YOU COME TO ME' 2006  Louise Bourgeois. '10 AM IS WHEN YOU COME TO ME' 2006 Louise Bourgeois. '10 AM IS WHEN YOU COME TO ME' 2006

 

Louise Bourgeois
“10 AM IS WHEN YOU COME TO ME” (details)
2006
Etching, ink, watercolour, pencil and gouache on paper

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the volcanic women series 2016-
Photo: © Tom Ross

 

 

‘I, too, overflow; my desires have invented new desires, my body knows unheard-of songs. Time and again I, too, have felt so full of luminous torrents that I could burst.’

HÉLÈNE CIXOUS, THE LAUGH OF THE MEDUSA (1975)

 

In this new series of works, entitled volcanic women, Barton coaxes and melts women into and out of the Earth’s larval core. Bodies flow from the ground, emerging as hot red lines of ink. These women erupt upward, as molten liquid bodies of agency. They display their genitals as though it is from their vaginas that the Earth’s energy spills forth. Barton here celebrates the abundance and generative necessity of women’s desire and sexual vigour. The suppression of women’s sexuality by a culture of fear is melted away in these volcanic works. (Wall text)

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'volcanic woman' 2016

 

Del Kathryn Barton
volcanic woman
2016
From the volcanic women series 2016-
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring a detail from the volcanic woman series (2016)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

 

“The film is split into sections titled MOTHER, FATHER, LIFE, DEATH and DAUGHTER. When it comes time for the father to feature, he is accompanied by a shot of a car revving. When the spider arrives (in a wonderful dance performed by Charmene Yap), she moves in an incredibly enthralling manner, but she’s writhing on a muscle car. The performance of gender isn’t twisted, it moves straight past the iconic and into the parodic. But it’s not supposed to be a parody of the deadly spider that eats its mate, it’s dead serious. Barton has no intimation of the taboo and genuinely titillating danger that Bourgeois could reproduce in spades. Then it hits me, everything in Barton’s world is conventionally beautiful, yet we’re supposed to find it shocking. I don’t see women reflected in her vision of “hyper-women”, I see great beauties, I see movie stars and high-fashion models.”

Victoria Perrin1

 

Del Kathryn Barton. Still from 'RED' 2016

Del Kathryn Barton. Still from 'RED' 2016

Del Kathryn Barton. Still from 'RED' 2016

Del Kathryn Barton. Still from 'RED' 2016

 

Del Kathryn Barton
Stills from RED
2016
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

 

‘Mother of otherness Eat me’

SYLVIA PLATH, POEMS FOR A BIRTHDAY (1960)

 

Sylvia Plath’s words open Barton’s first short film, RED. The human maternal figure at the heart of this work (played by Cate Blanchett) is interchangeable with a red-back spider. Alongside Blanchett, Barton’s daughter, Arella Plater, and actor Alex Russell portray the nuclear family, and Sydney Dance Company’s Charmene Yap is the arching, writhing spider. The film explores women’s desire and maternal experience. In the realm of recent art history, the mother-spider recalls American sculptor Louise Bourgeois’s massive, looming arachnids. Bourgeois is one of Barton’s greatest influences and represented spiders in a renowned series begun in 1994 and continued until the end of her life in 2010. Like Plath and Bourgeois before her, in this work Barton has rendered the overwhelming complexities and contradictions of motherhood. (Wall text)

 

 

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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08
Oct
17

Review: ‘Brave New World: Australia 1930s’ at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 14th July – 15th October 2017

 

Harold Cazneaux (New Zealand 1878 - Australia 1953, Australia from 1886) 'No title (Powerlines and chute)' c. 1935

 

Harold Cazneaux (New Zealand 1878 – Australia 1953, Australia from 1886)
No title (Powerlines and chute)
c. 1935
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of the H. J. Heinz II Charitable and Family Trust, Governor, 1993

 

 

In 1934 BHP (Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited) commissioned leading pictorialist photographer Harold Cazneaux to record their mining and steel operations for a special publication to mark their fiftieth anniversary in 1935. Cazneaux’s dramatic industrial images blended a soft, atmospheric focus with a modernist sense of space, form and geometry. In 1935-36 Australia exported close to 300,000 tonnes of iron ore to Japan; however, after Japan’s invasion of China in 1937 fear of its expansionist aims in the Pacific increased and soon afterwards the federal government announced a ban on the export of all iron ore to Japan.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Eugene Hyland

 

 

Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGV Australia, Melbourne is a small but stylishly designed exhibition that presents well in the gallery spaces. The look and feel of the exhibition is superb, and it was a joy to see so many works in so many disparate medium brought together to represent a decade in the history of Australia: photography, sculpture, painting, drawing, ceramic art, magazine art, travel posters, Art Deco radios, film, couture, culture, Aboriginal art, and furniture making, to name but a few.

The strong exhibition addresses most of the concerns of the 1930s – The Great Depression, beach and body culture, style, fashion, identity, culture, prelude to WW2, dystopian and utopian cities etc., – but it all felt a little cramped and truncated. Such a challenging time period needed a more expansive investigation. What there is was excellent but one display case on slums or magazine art was not substantive enough. The same can be said for most of the exhibition.

There needed to a lot more about the impact of the Great Depression and people living in poverty, for you get the feeling from this exhibition that everyone was living the Modernist high-life, wearing fashionable frocks and smoking cigarettes sitting around beautifully designed furniture surrounded by geometric textiles. The reality is that this paradigm was the exception rather than the rule. Many people struggled to even feed themselves due to The Great Depression, and it was a time of extreme hardship for people in Australia. Life for many, many people in Australia during the 1930s was a life of disenfranchisement, assimilation, oppression, social struggle, poverty, hunger and a hand to mouth existence.

“After the crash unemployment in Australia more than doubled to twenty-one per cent in mid-1930, and reached its peak in mid-1932 when almost thirty-two per cent of Australians were out of work… The Great Depression’s impact on Australian society was devastating. Without work and a steady income many people lost their homes and were forced to live in makeshift dwellings with poor heating and sanitation.” (“The Great Depression,” on the Australian Government website)

New artists and designers may have been emerging, new skyscrapers being built and the new ‘Modern Woman’ may have made her appearance but the changes only affected white, middle and upper social classes. Migrants, particularly those from Italy and southern Europe, were resented because they worked for less wages than others; and only brief mention is made of the White Australia policy in the exhibition but not by name (see text under Indigenous art and culture below). This section was more interested in how white artists appropriated Aboriginal design during this period for their own ends.

With this in mind, it is instructive to read sections of the illustrated handbook (not in the exhibition) produced by the National Museum of Victoria (in part, the forerunner of the NGV) to accompany a special exhibition of objects illustrating Australian Aboriginal Art in 1929:
.

“The subject of aboriginal Art – in this case the Art of the Australian Aboriginal – has to be approached with the utmost caution, for, though it comes directly within the domain of anthropology, it is in an indirect way a very important question in psychology and pedagogies. We possess some knowledge of our own mentality through the kind of offices of psychology; but though we have some – many in certain classes – material relics of our primitive and prehistoric ancestor, the only evidence of evolution of thought and the development of his powers of abstract conception must be derived from his art…

Still it appears possible that the study of primitive man, as represented by our Australian black, will throw some new light on the subject, and even if not more important than the old world pictographs themselves, his art work will enable the efforts of the Aurignacian and Magdalenian artists [cultures of the Upper Paleolithic in western Europe] to be better comprehended, and their import understood. But, for that study to achieve even a modicum of success, it is essential that the inquiring psychologist divest his mind of all civilized conceptions and mentality and assume those of the prehistoric man – or of the infant of the present day.”1

.
This is the attitude towards Aboriginal art that pervaded major art institutions right across Australia well into the 1950s. That the white has to “divest his mind of all civilized conceptions and mentality and assume those of the prehistoric man” – in other words, he has to become a savage – in order to understand Aboriginal art. It says a lot that the Trustees of the National Museum of Victoria then decided to reprint the illustrated handbook in 1952 without amendment, reprinting the publication originally used for the Exhibition in 1929. Nothing had changed in 22 years!

 

Australian Aboriginal Art 1962

 

National Museum of Victoria
Australian Aboriginal Art (cover)
1952 (reprint of 1929 illustrated handbook)
Brown, Prior, Anderson Pty. Ltd., Melbourne (publishers)
Trustees of the National Museum of Victoria
39 pages

 

 

Other small things in the exhibition rankle. The preponderance of the work of photographer Max Dupain is so overwhelming that from this exhibition, it would seem that he was the only photographer of note working in Australia throughout the decade. While Dupain was the first Modernist photographer in Australia, and a superb artist, Modernist photography was very much on the outer during most of the 1930s… the main art form of photography being that of Pictorialism. None of this under appreciated style of photography makes an appearance in this exhibition because it does not fit the theme of “Brave New World”. This dismisses the work of such people as Cecil Bostock, Harold Cazneaux, Henri Mallard, John Eaton et al as not producing “brave”, or valuable, portraits of a country during this time frame. This is a perspective that needs to be corrected.

Highlights for me in this exhibition included an earthenware vase by Ethel Blundell; a painting by that most incredible of atmospheric painters, Clarice Beckett (how I long to own one of her paintings!); a wonderful portrait by the underrated Cybil Craig; two stunning Keast Burke photographs; two beautiful stained glass windows of a male and female lifesaver; the slum photographs of F. Oswald Barnett (more please!); and the graphic covers of mostly short-lived radical magazines.

These highlights are worth the price of admission alone. A must see before the exhibition closes.

Marcus

  1. A. S. Kenyon. “The Art of the Australian Aboriginal.” in Australian Aboriginal Art. Melbourne: Trustees of the National Museum of Victoria, (1929) reprinted 1952, p. 15.

.
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.

 

The 1930s was a turbulent time in Australia’s history. During this decade major world events, including the Depression and the rise of totalitarian regimes in Europe, shaped our nation’s evolving sense of identity. In the arts, progressive ideas jostled with reactionary positions, and artists brought substantial creative efforts to bear in articulating the pressing concerns of the period. Brave New World: Australia 1930s encompasses the multitude of artistic styles, both advanced and conservative, which were practised during the 1930s. Included are commercial art, architecture, fashion, industrial design, film and dance to present a complete picture of this dynamic time.

The exhibition charts the themes of celebrating technological progress and its antithesis in the nostalgia for pastoralism; the emergence of the ‘New Woman’ and consumerism; nationalism and the body culture movement; the increasing interest in Indigenous art against a backdrop of the government policy of assimilation and mounting calls for Indigenous rights; the devastating effects of the Depression and the rise of radical politics; and the arrival of European refugees and the increasing anxiety at the impending threat of the Second World War. Brave New World: Australia 1930s presents a fresh perspective on the extraordinary 1930s, revealing some of the social and political concerns that were pertinent then and remain so today.

Text from the NGV website

 

Fred Ward (designer) (Australia 1900-90)

 

Fred Ward (designer) (Australia 1900-90)
E. M. Vary, Fitzroy, Melbourne (attributed to) (manufacturer) active 1920s-40s

Sideboard
c. 1932
Mountain ash (Eucalyptus sp.), painted wood, painted plywood, steel
(a-e) 84.0 x 119.7 x 48.7 cm (overall)
Proposed acquisition

Side table
c. 1932
Mountain ash (Eucalyptus sp.), jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata), steel
55.7 x 66.0 x 49.2 cm
Proposed acquisition

Tray table
c. 1932
Mountain ash (Eucalyptus sp.), blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon), steel
(a-b) 52.0 x 60.9 x 42.5 cm (overall)
Proposed acquisition

 

 

A new generation of artists and designers

While modern art was a source of debate and controversy throughout the 1930s, modernism in architecture, interior design, industrial design and advertising became highly fashionable. In Melbourne a small group of designers pioneered modern design in Australia. Furniture designer Fred Ward first designed and made furniture for his home in Eaglemont, where he had established a studio workshop. It was admired by friends and he was encouraged to produce furniture for sale. In 1932 Ward opened a shop in Collins Street, Melbourne. There he offered his furniture, as well as linens and Scandinavian glass. The fabrics for curtains and upholstery were printed by Australian designer Michael O’Connell with bold designs that shocked some but were favoured by a new generation looking to create modern interiors.

More than in most periods, in the 1930s art, design and architecture were closely integrated with the changing realities of contemporary life. It was a time when the last vestiges of the conservative art establishment were swept away by a new generation of artists and designers who were to drive Australian art in the second half of the twentieth century.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation views of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Max Dupain’s Illustration for Kelvinator advertisement at left and Ethel Blundell’s Vase centre on sidboard
Photos: Courtesy NGV Photographic Services

 

 

Fred Ward was one of the first and most important designers of modern furniture in Australia. He began making furniture around 1930, and in 1932 opened a shop in Collins Street selling his furniture, as well as textiles by Michael O’Connell and other modern design pieces. In 1934 Ward went into partnership with Myer Emporium and established the Myer Design Unit, for which he designed a line of modular ‘unit’ furniture for commercial production. Ward’s simple, functional aesthetic and use of local timbers with a natural waxed finish was in contrast to the luxurious materials and decorative motifs of the contemporary Art Deco style.

The armchair, sideboard and occasional tables were designed by Fred Ward and purchased by Maie Casey in the early 1930s. The wife of R. G. Casey, federal treasurer in the Lyons Government, Maie was a prominent supporter of modern art and design. Moving to Canberra in 1932, she furnished her house at Duntroon in a modern style with furniture by Ward and textiles by Michael O’Connell. The design of Ward’s armchair closely resembles a 1920s armchair by German Bauhaus furniture designer Erich Dieckmann, who was known for his standardised wooden furniture based on geometric designs.

 

Michael O'Connell designer (England 1898-1976, Australia 1920-37) 'Textile' c. 1933

 

Michael O’Connell designer (England 1898-1976, Australia 1920-37)
Textile
c. 1933
Block printed linen
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased, 1988

 

 

Michael O’Connell pioneered modernist textiles in Melbourne and was an influential advocate of modern design. Working with his wife Ella from his studio in Beaumaris, O’Connell used woodblocks and linocuts to hand print onto raw linens and silks, which were used for fashion garments and home furnishing. O’Connell’s boldly patterned and highly stylised designs were considered startlingly modern. Some of his early fabrics featured ‘jazz age’ scenes of nightclubs and dancing, while later motifs were based on Australian flora and fauna, or derived from Oceanic and Aboriginal art.

 

Sam Atyeo. 'Album of designs: tables' c. 1933 - c. 1936

 

Sam Atyeo
Album of designs: tables
c. 1933 – c. 1936
Album: watercolour, brush and coloured inks, coloured pencils, 14 designs tipped into an album of 16 grey pages, card covers, tape and stapled binding
30.0 x 19.2 cm (page) 30.0 x 20.8 x 0.8 cm (closed)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of the artist, 1988

 

 

Sam Atyeo was a leading figure in Melbourne’s emerging modernist circles in the early 1930s, the partner of artist Moya Dyring and lover of Sunday Reed. He had studied at the National Gallery School, where he was a brilliant and rebellious student. Around 1932 Atyeo became friendly with Cynthia Reed, who managed Fred Ward’s furniture shop and interior design consultancy on Collins Street. After she opened Cynthia Reed Modern Furnishings in Little Collins Street, Atyeo designed furniture for Reed, that was strongly influenced by Ward’s designs.

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'Illustration for Kelvinator advertisement' 1936

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Illustration for Kelvinator advertisement
1936
Gelatin silver photograph
32.8 x 25.3 cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Collection Benefactors’ Program 2000

 

Ethel Blundell. 'Vase' 1936

 

Ethel Blundell
Vase
1936
Earthenware
17.6 x 16.8 cm diameter
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented through The Art Foundation of Victoria by Mrs Margaret Howie, Governor, 1999
© Ethel Blundell

 

 

Utopian cities

Modernity reflected what was new and progressive in Australian urban life. The image of the city became an allegory for this in art, and efficiency and speed became watchwords for modernity. Many artists celebrated the city and technological advancements in works utilising a modern style of hard-edged forms, flat colours and dynamic compositions. The engineering marvel of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which opened in 1932, was an ongoing source of fascination for artists, as were images of building the city, industry and modern modes of transport.

The skyscraper was also a powerful symbol of modern prosperity, especially when the Great Depression cast doubt on the inevitability of progress; hence the advent of tall buildings in Australian cities was hailed with relief and optimism. In 1932, at the peak of the Depression, the tallest building in Melbourne was opened: the Manchester Unity Building at the corner of Swanston and Collins streets. With its ornamental tower and spire taking its overall height to 64 metres, the building was welcomed by The Age newspaper as ‘a new symbol of enterprise and confidence, undaunted by the “temporary eclipse” of the country’s economic fortune’.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Seventh city of the Empire – Melbourne, Victoria at left; and Evening dress at right
Photo: Eugene Hyland

 

Percy Trompf (Australia 1902-64) 'Seventh city of the Empire - Melbourne, Victoria' 1930s

 

Percy Trompf (Australia 1902-64)
Seventh city of the Empire – Melbourne, Victoria
1930s
Colour lithograph printed by J. E. Hackett, Melbourne
State Library Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mr Grant Lee, 2007

 

 

Percy Trompf’s poster celebrates Melbourne’s first skyscraper, the iconic Manchester Unity Building on the corner of Swanston and Collins streets. Designed by architect Marcus Barlow in the Art Deco ‘Gothic’ style, it was built at high speed between 1930 and 1932, and provided much needed employment during the Depression. At twelve storeys high and topped with a decorative tower it was Melbourne’s tallest building and contained the city’s first escalators. A powerful symbol of the city’s modernity, it was often featured in images of Melbourne.

 

Unknown, Australia 'Evening dress' c. 1935

 

Unknown, Australia
Evening dress
c. 1935
Silk
144.0 cm (centre back), 36.0 cm (waist, flat)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Miss Irene Mitchell, 1975

 

Ethel Spowers (Australia 1890-1947, England and France 1921-24) 'The works, Yallourn' 1933

 

Ethel Spowers (Australia 1890-1947, England and France 1921-24)
The works, Yallourn
1933
Colour linocut, ed. 3/50
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
The Joseph Brown Collection
Presented through the NGV Foundation by Dr Joseph Brown AO OBE, Honorary Life Benefactor, 2004

 

 

Ethel Spowers and Eveline Syme were leading figures in modern art in Melbourne. In the 1920s they studied with modernist Claude Flight at the Grosvenor School in London, where they learnt to make colour linocuts that followed Flight’s principles of rhythmic design combined with flat colour. In April 1933 Spowers and Syme visited the Yallourn Power Station in Gippsland, which had been opened in 1928 and was the largest supplier of electricity to the state.

 

Vida Lahey (Australia 1882-1968) 'Sultry noon (Central Station Brisbane)' 1931

 

Vida Lahey (Australia 1882-1968)
Sultry noon (Central Station Brisbane)
1931
Oil on canvas on plywood
44.7 x 49.2 cm
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane Purchased 1983
© QAGOMA

 

Clarice Beckett (Australia 1887-1935) 'Taxi rank' c. 1931

 

Clarice Beckett (Australia 1887-1935)
Taxi rank
c. 1931
Oil on canvas on board
Kerry Stokes Collection, Perth

 

Installation view of Herbert Badham's 'George Street, Sydney' (1934) from the exhibition 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of Herbert Badham’s George Street, Sydney (1934) from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

After serving in the Royal Australian Navy during the First World War, Herbert Badham studied at the Sydney Art School and began exhibiting in 1927. In his paintings he was a keen observer of everyday urban life: streets with shoppers, city workers on their lunch break and drinkers in the pub were painted in a contemporary, hard-edged realist style.

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'Rush hour in King's Cross' 1938, printed c. 1986

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Rush hour in King’s Cross
1938, printed c. 1986
Gelatin silver photograph
41.2 x 40.3 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of Mr A.C. Goode, Fellow, 1987

 

 

During the 1930s the city provided a rich source of imagery for artists working in modern styles, who celebrated the speed and efficiency of modern transport technology and expanding road and rail networks. Yet as car ownership increased during the 1930s, larger cities began to suffer congestion and the rush hour became part of urban life. Throughout the decade the pace and stress of modern life became a topic of public debate, with conservative commentators decrying this transformation of the Australian lifestyle.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Max Dupain’s Rush hour in King’s Cross at right
Photo: Courtesy NGV Photographic Services

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Grace Cossington Smith’s The Bridge in-curve at right
Photo: Courtesy NGV Photographic Services

 

Grace Cossington Smith. 'The Bridge in-curve' 1930

 

Grace Cossington Smith (Australia 1892-1984, England and Germany 1912-14, England and Italy 1949-51)
The Bridge in-curve
1930
Tempera on cardboard
83.6 x 111.8 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented by the National Gallery Society of Victoria, 1967
© Estate of Grace Cossington Smith

 

 

The slow rise of the Sydney Harbour Bridge above the city was recorded by numerous painters, printmakers and photographers, including Sydney modernist Grace Cossington Smith. Her iconic The Bridge-in-curve depicts the bridge just before its two arches were joined in August 1930, and conveys the sense of wonder, achievement and hope that was inspired by this engineering marvel. By painting the emerging, rather than the complete bridge, Cossington Smith also focuses our attention on the energy and ambition required to create it.

 

Frank Hinder (Australia 1906-92, United States 1927-34) 'Trains passing' 1940

 

Installation view of Frank Hinder’s Trains passing (1940) from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Frank Hinder (Australia 1906-92, United States 1927-34) 'Trains passing' 1940

 

Frank Hinder (Australia 1906-92, United States 1927-34)
Trains passing
1940
Oil on composition board
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1974

 

 

Frank Hinder was one of the first abstract artists in Australia. After living and studying in the United States, Hinder and his wife, the American sculptor Margel, returned to Sydney in 1934. There they became part of a small avant-garde group that included Grace Crowley, Rah Fizelle, Ralph Balson and the German sculptor and art historian Eleanore Lange, all of whom were interested in Cubist, Constructivist and Futurist art. Hinder later said that this work was inspired by seeing Lange, sitting next to him on a train, reflected in the windows of a passing train.

 

Frank Hinder (Australia 1906-92, United States 1927-34) 'Commuters' 1938

 

Frank Hinder (Australia 1906-92, United States 1927-34)
Commuters
1938
Tempera on paper on board
Private collection

 

Victorian Railways, Melbourne (publisher) Australia 1856-1976 'The Victorian Railways present The Spirit of Progress' 1937

 

Victorian Railways, Melbourne (publisher) Australia 1856-1976
The Victorian Railways present The Spirit of Progress
1937
Booklet: colour photolithographs and letterpress,
12 pages, cardboard cover
printed by Queen City Printers, Melbourne
20.8 x 26.8 cm (closed)
State Library Victoria, Melbourne

 

 

Launched in November 1937, The Spirit of Progress express passenger train was a source of immense pride to Victorians. Built in Newport, Victoria, the train featured many innovations, including all-steel carriages and full air-conditioning. Designed in the Art Deco, streamlined style by architectural firm Stephenson & Turner, the passenger carriages were fitted out to a level of comfort not previously seen in Australia, and included a full dining carriage. The train ran between Melbourne and the New South Wales state border at Albury, the longest non-stop train journey in Australia at that time, at an average speed of 84 kilometres per hour.

 

Installation view of Ivor Francis' 'Speed!' from the exhibition 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of Ivor Francis’ Speed! from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Ivor Francis (England 1906-Australia 1993, Australia from 1924) 'Speed!' 1931

 

Ivor Francis (England 1906-Australia 1993, Australia from 1924)
Speed!
1931
Colour process block print
Art Gallery of South Australia
Adelaide South Australian Government Grant 1986

 

Randille, Melbourne (maker) active 1930s 'Night gown' c. 1938

 

Randille, Melbourne (maker) active 1930s
Night gown
c. 1938
Silk (a) 166.0 cm (centre back) 38.9 cm (waist, flat) (dress) (b) 121.0 cm (centre back) 38.0 cm (waist, flat) (slip)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented by Mrs A. G. Pringle, 1982

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Max Dupain’s Rush hour in King’s Cross left and Frank Hinder’s Jackhammer third from right and Margel Hinder’s Man with jackhammer second right
Photo: Courtesy NGV Photographic Services

 

Margel Hinder (United States 1906-Australia 1995, Australia from 1934) 'Man with jackhammer' 1939

 

Margel Hinder (United States 1906-Australia 1995, Australia from 1934)
Man with jackhammer
1939
Cedar
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of J. B. Were & Son, Governor, 2001

 

 

American-born Margel Hinder was one of Australia’s leading modernist sculptors. She had studied art in Boston, where she met and married Sydney artist Frank Hinder. In 1934 they moved to Australia and became an important part of Sydney’s small modern art scene. In Man with jackhammer Hinder has simplified and contained the figure within a square frame, the strong diagonal form of the jackhammer creating a sense of compressed energy and force. Man and machine have fused in this celebration of industry and progress.

 

Frank Hinder (Australia 1906-92, United States 1927-34) 'Jackhammer' 1936

 

Frank Hinder (Australia 1906-92, United States 1927-34)
Jackhammer
1936
Airbrush on black paper
52.0 x 38.0 cm
Private collection, Sydney
© Enid Hawkins

 

 

Modern Woman

In the 1930s the new ‘Modern Woman’ made her appearance as a more serious and emancipated version of the giddy 1920s ‘flapper’. A woman who worked, she often lived alone in one of the new city apartment buildings, visited nightclubs and showed less interest in traditional marriage and child rearing. A lean body type became fashionable and was enhanced by the lengthened hemlines and defined waists introduced by French couturier Jean Patou in 1929. This slender silhouette was supported by form-fitting foundation garments by manufacturers such as Berlei.

The Modern Woman became one of the most potent images of contemporary life, being celebrated in women’s magazines such as the ultra-stylish Home and the Australian Women’s Weekly, launched in 1933. While such magazines were congratulating her and promoting new consumer goods to the Modern Woman, at the same time she was criticised by conservative commentators. In 1937 photographer Max Dupain wrote: ‘There must be a great shattering of modern values if woman is to continue to perpetuate the race… In her shred of a dress and little helmet of a hat, her cropped hair, and stark bearing, the modern woman is a sort of a soldier… It is not her fault it is her doom’.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Peter Purves Smith’s Maisie left, Cybil Craig’s Peggy second left and Peter Purves Smith’s Lucile at  top right
Photo: Eugene Hyland

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Cybil Craig’s Peggy second left and Lina Bryans The babe is wise at right
Photo: Courtesy NGV Photographic Services

 

Peter Purves Smith (Australia 1912-49, England 1935-36, England and France 1938-40) 'Maisie' 1938-39

 

Peter Purves Smith (Australia 1912-49, England 1935-36, England and France 1938-40)
Maisie
1938-39
Gouache
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Bequest of Lady Maisie Drysdale 2001

 

 

In 1937 the striking, auburn-haired Maisie Newbold was a student at the George Bell School in Melbourne, where she met fellow student Peter Purves Smith and his best friend Russell Drysdale. Maisie and Purves Smith were married in 1946, only three years before latter’s premature death from tuberculosis. Purves Smith painted this portrait at the start of their relationship. It depicts Maisie as a stylish woman wearing the latest fashion, the angularity of her features contrasted by the soft fur of her collar and feathers of her hat. Many years later Maisie married Drysdale.

 

Installation view of Sybil Craig's work 'Peggy' c. 1932

 

Installation view of Sybil Craig’s work Peggy c. 1932
Photo: Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Sybil Craig (England 1901 - Australia 1909, Australia from 1902) 'Peggy' c. 1932

 

Sybil Craig (England 1901 – Australia 1909, Australia from 1902)
Peggy
c. 1932
Oil on canvas
40.4 x 30.4 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased, 1978
© The Estate of Sybil Craig

 

Lina Bryans (Germany (of Australian parents) 1909-Australia 2000, Australia from 1910) 'The babe is wise' 1940

 

Lina Bryans (Germany (of Australian parents) 1909-Australia 2000, Australia from 1910)
The babe is wise
1940
Oil on cardboard
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Miss Jean Campbell, 1962

 

 

Lina Bryans’s portrait of author Jean Campbell is titled after Campbell’s 1939 novel The Babe is Wise, a contemporary story set in Melbourne and in which the main protagonists are European migrants. A well-known figure in Melbourne’s literary circles, Campbell was noted for her ‘quick and slightly audacious wit’. Bryans had begun painting in 1937 with the support of William Frater. In the late 1930s she lived at Darebin Bridge House, which became an informal artists’ colony and meeting place for writers associated with the journal Meanjin.

 

Peter Purves Smith (Australia 1912-49, England 1935-36, England and France 1938-40) 'Lucile' 1937

 

Peter Purves Smith (Australia 1912-49, England 1935-36, England and France 1938-40)
Lucile
1937
Oil on board
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Purchased 2011 with funds raised through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Appeal

 

Nora Heysen (Australia 1911-2003, England and Italy 1934-37) 'Self-portrait' 1932

 

Nora Heysen (Australia 1911-2003, England and Italy 1934-37)
Self-portrait
1932
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Acquired with the assistance of the Masterpieces for the Nation Fund 2011

 

 

During the first decade of her life as a professional artist, Nora Heysen completed numerous self-portraits. In many of these she depicts herself in the act of drawing or painting, holding a palette and brush or with other accoutrements of the artist, and thereby asserting her professional identity. Yet these are also highly charged works in which Heysen scrutinises herself (and the viewer) with an unflinching and unsmiling gaze.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Arthur Challen’s Miss Moira Madden above chair
Photo: Eugene Hyland

 

Arthur Challen 'Miss Moira Madden' 1937

 

Arthur Challen
Miss Moira Madden
1937
oil on canvas
89.8 x 77.4 cm (framed)
State Library of Victoria
Gift of Mrs S. M. Challen, 1966
© The Estate of Arthur Challen

 

 

Body culture

The terrible physical losses and psychological traumas of the First World War changed Australian society and prompted anxious concerns about the direction of the nation. For some this meant an inward-looking isolationism, a desire that Australian culture should develop independently and untouched by the ‘degenerate’ influences of Europe.

The search for rejuvenation frequently involved explorations of the capabilities and vulnerabilities of the human body. In the hands of artists, corporeal forms came to symbolise nationhood, most often expressed through references to the art of Classical Greece and mythological subjects. The evolution of a new Australian ‘type’ was also proposed in the 1930s – a white Australian drawn from British stock, but with an athletic and streamlined shape honed by time spent swimming and surfing on local beaches.

This art often has a distinctive quality to it, which in the light of history can sometimes make for disquieting viewing. With the terrible knowledge of how the Nazi Party in Germany subsequently used eugenics in its systematic slaughter of those with so-called ‘bad blood’, the Australian enthusiasm for ‘body culture’ can now seem problematic. Images of muscular nationalism soon lost their cache in Australia following the Second World War, tainted by undesirable fascistic overtones.

 

Keast Burke (New Zealand 1896 - Australia 1974, Australia from 1904) 'Harvest' c. 1940

 

Keast Burke (New Zealand 1896 – Australia 1974, Australia from 1904)
Harvest
c. 1940
Gelatin silver photograph (25.6 x 30.5 cm)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gerstl Bequest, 2000

 

Keast Burke (New Zealand 1896 - Australia 1974, Australia from 1904) 'Husbandry 1' c. 1940

 

Keast Burke (New Zealand 1896 – Australia 1974, Australia from 1904)
Husbandry 1
c. 1940
Gelatin silver photograph
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Gift of Iris Burke 1989

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'Discus thrower' 1937, printed (c. 1939)

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Discus thrower
1937, printed (c. 1939)
Gelatin silver photograph
38.5 x 37.5 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 2003

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'Souvenir of Cronulla' 1937

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Souvenir of Cronulla
1937
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of National Australia Bank Limited, Honorary Life Benefactor, 1992

 

 

In the 1930s Max Dupain responded to Henri Bergson’s book Creative Evolution (1907) in which he considered creativity and intuition as central to the renewed development of society, and the artist as prime possessor of these powers. Vitalism, as this philosophy was termed, was believed to be expressed through polarised sexual energies. In this work Dupain focuses on the sexually differentiated ‘energies’ of men and women, associating women with the forces of nature.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Daphne Mayo’s A young Australian in foreground
Photo: Eugene Hyland

 

Daphne Mayo (Australia 1895-1982, England 1919-23, France 1923-25) 'A young Australian' 1930, cast 1931

 

Daphne Mayo (Australia 1895-1982, England 1919-23, France 1923-25)
A young Australian
1930, cast 1931
Bronze, marble
(a-b) 51.0 x 35.2 x 18.1 cm (overall)
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney Purchased 1930
© 1982 by The Surf Life Saving Foundation and the Uniting Church in Australia Property Trust (Q.)

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Dorothy Thornhill’s Neo-classical nudes and Resting Diana at left; Tom Purvis’ Australia’s 150th Anniversary Celebrations (wall print) at centre rear; and Jean Broome-Norton’s Abundance on plinth at right
Photo: Courtesy NGV Photographic Services

 

Tom Purvis (England 1888-1959) 'Australia's 150th Anniversary Celebrations' c. 1938

 

Tom Purvis (England 1888-1959)
Australia’s 150th Anniversary Celebrations
c. 1938
Colour lithograph
Courtesy of Josef Lebovic Gallery, Sydney

 

Installation view of Dorothy Thornhill's 'Neo-classical nudes' from the exhibition 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of Dorothy Thornhill’s Neo-classical nudes from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Dorothy Thornhill (England 1910 - Australia 1987, New Zealand 1920-29, Australia from 1929) 'Resting Diana' 1931

 

Dorothy Thornhill (England 1910 – Australia 1987, New Zealand 1920-29, Australia from 1929)
Resting Diana
1931
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1977

 

 

The invocation of the Classical body as a modern prototype was a powerful idea in the 1930s. The Graeco- Roman goddess Diana, the virgin patron goddess of the hunt, was popularly invoked as an ideal of female perfection, and represented with a slender and athletic physique. Dorothy Thornhill’s Diana is a remarkable visualisation of such a ‘modern Diana’, her angular body and defined musculature reflecting the masculinisation of female bodies at this time. She is a formidable presence, the quiver of arrows slung nonchalantly across her shoulders a trophy of her victory over the male gender.

 

Jean Broome-Norton (Australia 1911-2002) 'Abundance' 1934

 

Jean Broome-Norton (Australia 1911-2002)
Abundance
1934
Plaster, bronze patination
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of ICI Australia Limited, Fellow, 1994

 

 

“High-rise buildings, fast trains and engineering feats such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge jostled against the Great Depression, conservatism and a looming Second World War during the 1930s, one of the most turbulent decades in Australian history. The major exhibition at the NGV, Brave New World: Australia 1930s, will explore the way artists and designers engaged with these major issues providing a fresh look at a period characterised by both optimism and despair. The exhibition will present a broad-ranging collection of more than 200 works spanning photography, painting, printmaking, sculpture and decorative arts as well as design, architecture, fashion, graphics, film and dance.

Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV, commented, “Brave New World explores an important period of Australian art history during which Abstraction, Surrealism and Expressionism first emerged, and women artists arose as trailblazers of the modern art movement. It will offer an immersive look at the full spectrum of visual and creative culture of the period, from Max Dupain’s iconic depictions of the Australian body and beach culture to a vast display of nearly 40 Art Deco radios, which were an indispensable item for the Australian home during the 1930s.”

Presented thematically, Brave New World will show how artists and designers responded to major social and political concerns of the 1930s. The Great Depression, which saw Australia’s unemployment rate rise to 32% by 1932, is seen through the eyes of photographer F. Oswald Barnett in his powerful images of poverty-stricken inner Melbourne suburbs such as Fitzroy, Collingwood and Carlton, and in the works of Danila Vassilieff, Yosl Bergner, Arthur Boyd and Albert Tucker who were among the first artists to depict Australia’s working class and destitute.

In contrast, many other artists at the time chose to focus upon the vibrant city streets, cafes and buildings of contemporary Australian cities, such as renowned modernist Grace Cossington Smith with her energetic canvasses of flat colours and abstracted forms. Other artists featured in Brave New World including Hilda Rix Nicholas and Elioth Gruner concentrated on more traditional scenes of the Australian bush, which was seen as a place of respite from the frenetic pace of modern city life.

The exhibition will explore artists’ responses to the growing calls for Indigenous rights during the 1930s, which was accompanied by a rising interest in Aboriginal art and particularly the work of Albert Namatjira, the first Indigenous artist of renown in Australia; and the rise of the ‘modern woman’, a female who favoured urban living, freedom and equality over marriage and child rearing.

The 1930s also saw the idea of the ‘Australian body’, a tanned, muscular archetype shaped by sand and surf, come to the fore of the Australian identity. Artists who engaged with this idea, including Max Dupain, Charles Meere and Olive Cotton, will be presented in Brave New World. The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully-illustrated, 212-page hardback publication, featuring essays by leading writers on each of the exhibition themes. A series of public programs will also be offered including a major symposium, an Art Deco walking tour of Melbourne and a dance performance, recreating Demon machine (1924) by the Bodenweiser company that toured Australia in the late 1930s as well as an original solo by the choreographer, Carol Brown (NZ).

Press release from the NGV

 

Nanette Kuehn (Germany 1911-Australia 1980, Australia from 1937) 'Borislav Runanine and Tamara Grigorieva in Jeux D'Enfants, original Ballets Russes, Australian tour' 1939-40

 

Nanette Kuehn (Germany 1911-Australia 1980, Australia from 1937)
Borislav Runanine and Tamara Grigorieva in Jeux D’Enfants, original Ballets Russes, Australian tour
1939-40
Gelatin silver photograph
Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre, Melbourne
The Australian Ballet Collection. Gift of The Australian Ballet, 1998

 

 

The expressive body: dance in Australia

If modern art encapsulated the ideals and conflicting forces of the early twentieth century, then modern dance embodied its restless vitality and the quest for a different kind of subjectivity and expression. To many, modern dance is the pivotal art form for a mid twentieth century concerned with plasticity, the expressive body and tensions between the individual and its collective formation.

The decade of the 1930s is framed by the 1928-29 tour of Anna Pavlova’s dance company and the three tours of the remnant Ballets Russes companies (1936-37, 1938-39,1939-40) that excited many aspiring modernist artists. These tours sowed the seeds for subsequent ballet narratives in Australia, because the eruption of war in 1939 meant that Ballets Russes dancers, including Helene Kirsova and Edouard Borovansky, stayed in the country and established ballet companies. While trained in Russian dance technique, these artists were also influenced by the aesthetics of change in European art and dance that included new bodily techniques, dynamic movement patterns and modern technologies. It was the individual dancers of modern dance, however, including Louise Lightfoot and Sonia Revid, who produced the expressive intensity of a more autonomous art of movement.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation views of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA featuring a wall print of Sonia Revid dancing on Brighton beach c. 1935 by an unknown Australian photographer
Photos: Courtesy NGV Photographic Services

 

Australia, Unknown photographer. 'Sonia Revid dancing on Brighton beach' c. 1935

 

Australia, Unknown photographer
Sonia Revid dancing on Brighton beach
c. 1935
Courtesy of State Library Victoria, Melbourne

 

 

Sonia Revid was one of the leading proponents of modern interpretative dance in Melbourne. Born in Latvia, she studied with the great dancer Mary Wigman in Germany before coming to Australia in 1932. Revid is credited with introducing the ‘German Dance’ to Australian audiences, and in the mid 1930s established the Sonia Revid School of Art and Body Culture in Collins Street. She composed her own dances, one of the best known being Bushfire drama (1940), based on the 1939 Victoria Bushfires.

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'Ballet (Emmy Towsey and Evelyn Ippen, Bodenwieser Dancers performing Waterlilies)' 1937, printed (c. 1939)

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Ballet (Emmy Towsey and Evelyn Ippen, Bodenwieser Dancers performing Waterlilies)
1937, printed (c. 1939)
Gelatin silver photograph
44.5 x 33.5 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 2003

 

Jack Cato (Australia 1889-1971, England 1909-14, South Africa 1914-20) 'Helene Kirsova and Igor Youskevitch in Les Presages, Monte Carlo Russian Ballet' 1936-37

 

Jack Cato (Australia 1889-1971, England 1909-14, South Africa 1914-20)
Helene Kirsova and Igor Youskevitch in Les Presages, Monte Carlo Russian Ballet
1936-37
Gelatin silver photograph
24.8 x 19.4 cm
Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre, Melbourne
The Australian Ballet Collection
Gift of The Australian Ballet, 1998

 

 

Choreographed by Léonide Massine in 1933, Les Presages (Destiny) was a popular and avant-garde work during the Ballets Russes tours to Australia in 1936-37. It was one of the first contemporary ballets to be choreographed to an existing musical score, Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony. Portrayed in this picture are two principal dancers from the Monte Carlo Ballets Russes: Hélène Kirsova, who remained in Australia and formed her own ballet company in Sydney in the early 1940s, and Igor Youskevitch, who became a leading American ballet dancer, appearing here in the role of the Hero.

 

Evelyn Ippen designer and maker active in Australia 1930s 'Dress for Slavonic Dances' 1939

 

Evelyn Ippen designer and maker active in Australia 1930s
Dress for Slavonic Dances
1939
Cotton, silk (velvet) (appliqué), elastic, metal (zip) for a production of the Bodenwieser Ballet, choreographed by Gertrud Bodenwieser
Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre, Melbourne
Bodenwieser Collection. Gift of Barbara Cuckson, 2000

 

 

The Slavonic Dances were choreographed by Gertrud Bodenwieser to represent what she described as the ‘vigour and passionate feelings of the Slavonic people’, and toured with her first company in Australia in 1939. Loosely using folk-dance motifs, this ensemble work would have been a stylish crowd-pleaser in contrast to more serious dances. The appliqué and colourful flower motifs on this dress are similar to designs by Natalia Goncharova for the Ballets Russes, although the simplified appeal of its ‘red bodice, long, swirling skirt, and gathered white sleeves’ were probably designed by one of the company dancers, Evelyn Ippen.

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'Tamara Tchinarova in Presages' 1937

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Tamara Tchinarova in Presages
Published in Art in Australia, February 15, 1937
National Gallery of Victoria
Melbourne Shaw Research Library

 

 

Australia Tunes Into The World

These radios comprise a selection of Australian designed and manufactured tabletop models from the 1930s at a time when this new method of communication became an integral part of every home. They reflect the rapid spread of the streamlined style to Australia from the United States, England and Europe, where industrial designers applied machine-age styling to everyday household appliances. The use of new synthetic plastics (Bakelite) and mass production helped to make radios affordable for ordinary people, even in the depths of the Depression, and radio transmission brought the world into every Australian home. As cheap alternatives to the expensive wooden console in the lounge room, these small, portable radios allowed individual family members to listen to serials, quizzes and popular music in other rooms such as the kitchen, bedroom and verandah, as well as in the workplace.

Radios of the 1930s are now appreciated as quintessential examples of Art Deco styling, and one of the first expressions of art meeting industry. These colourful and elegant radio sets were one of the first pieces of modern styling in the Australian home. They were also a symbol of modern technology and a new future.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of Australian Art Deco radios from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Eugene Hyland

 

Airzone (1931) Ltd, Sydney (manufacturer) 'Mullard' 1938

 

Airzone (1931) Ltd, Sydney (manufacturer)
Mullard (white)
1938
Collection of Peter Sheridan and Jan Hatch

Airzone (1931) Ltd, Sydney (manufacturer)
Mullard (speckled green)
1938
Collection of Peter Sheridan and Jan Hatch

Airzone (1931) Ltd, Sydney (manufacturer)
Mullard (black)
1938
Collection of Peter Sheridan and Jan Hatch
Photo © Peter Sheridan

 

Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd., Sydney (manufacturer) est. 1913 'AWA 'Egg crate' (various colours)' 1938

 

Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd., Sydney (manufacturer) est. 1913
AWA ‘Egg crate’ (various colours)
1938
Bakelite
21.0 x 33.0 x 19.0 cm (each)
Collection of Peter Sheridan and Jan Hatch
Photo © Peter Sheridan

 

Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd., Sydney (manufacturer) est. 1913 'AWA Radiolette 'Empire State' and cigarette box (green)' 1934

 

Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd., Sydney (manufacturer) est. 1913
AWA Radiolette ‘Empire State’ and cigarette box (green)
1934
Bakelite
(a) 28.0 x 27.0 x 15.0 cm (radio) (b) 8.0 x 8.0 x 4.5 cm (cigarette box)
Collection of Peter Sheridan and Jan Hatch
Photo © Peter Sheridan

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation views of Australian Art Deco radios from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photos: Courtesy NGV Photographic Services

 

 

Sun and surf

The beach was a complex location in the Australian creative imagination. It was a democratic site in which the trappings of wealth and position were abandoned as people stripped down to their bathers. It was a place of hedonistic pleasures that offered sensuous engagement with sun and surf, and a primitive landscape where natural forces restored the bodies of those depleted by modern life. It was a playground for the tourist that was considered distinctively Australian. As war loomed again in the late 1930s, it was also a pseudo-militaristic zone in which the lifesaver was honed for ‘battle’ in the surf.

The lifesavers that helped protect the beach-going public were regularly praised as physical exemplars who could build the eugenic stock of the nation. As the Second World War approached, the connection of these trained lifesavers to military servicemen also became painfully apparent.

Male lifesavers were used by artists in promoting Australia to tourists: a poster commemorating the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932 positioned the lifesaver as the quintessential representative of Australian manhood. Douglas Annand and Arthur Whitmore’s virile lifesaver proudly gestures towards the new bridge, his muscles as strong and protective as the steel girders that span the harbour.

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'On the beach. Man, woman, boy' 1938

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
On the beach. Man, woman, boy
1938
Gelatin silver photograph
39.2 x 47.2 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1982

 

 

Showing a naked family on the beach, Max Dupain’s work is a perfect illustration of social concerns of the times. As Australia moved closer to engagement in another world war, fears about the poor physical fitness of the population were debated, with a ‘national fitness’ campaign instituted by the government in 1938. Dupain’s father, George, was one of the country’s first physical educationalists, opening the Dupain Institute of Physical Education and Medical Gymnastics in 1900 and writing extensively on the subject of health and fitness. Max Dupain attended the gym and was well versed in contemporary concerns about fitness.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Eugene Hyland

 

Installation view of 'Male lifesaver, window' and 'Female lifesaver, window' (both c. 1935)

 

Installation view of Male lifesaver, window and Female lifesaver, window (both c. 1935) from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Unknown, Melbourne. 'Male lifesaver, window' c. 1935

 

Unknown, Melbourne
Male lifesaver, window
c. 1935
Stained glass, lead
47.5 x 40.8 cm
Williamstown Swimming and Life Saving Club, Williamstown
Donated by C. J Dennis

 

 

‘On golden and milky sands, bodily excellence is displayed the year round, clearly defined by the sun in an atmosphere as viewless and benign as the air of Hellas as described by Euripides.’

J. S. Macdonald, 1931

 

Unknown, Melbourne. 'Female lifesaver, window' c. 1935

 

Unknown, Melbourne
Female lifesaver, window
c. 1935
Stained glass, lead
47.0 x 40.9 cm
Williamstown Swimming and Life Saving Club, Williamstown
Donated by Councillor R. T. Bell

 

 

Although much was made of the ‘gods of the golden sand’, as one poet glowingly described lifesavers, lifesaving clubs were not entirely male in membership. Women lifesavers also made their mark, albeit in more limited numbers and with much less recognition. At the Williamstown Lifesaving Club in Melbourne a woman lifesaver was included in this fine and very rare stained glass window that, along with its counterpart featuring a male lifesaver, graced the newly established clubhouse around 1935.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with the male and female lifesavers (centre); Max Dupain’s The carnival at Bondi (fourth from right); Sydney Bridge celebrations (second right); and Douglas Annand and Max Dupain’s Australia (right)
Photo: Courtesy NGV Photographic Services

 

Max Dupain. 'Sunbaker' 1937

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Sunbaker
(1938), dated 1937, printed c. 1975
Gelatin silver photograph
38.0 x 43.1 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with the assistance of the Visual Arts Board, 1976

 

 

Taken on a camping trip near Culburra, on the Shoalhaven River in New South Wales, in January 1938, Max Dupain’s original version of the Sunbaker was a much darker image that existed at the time only in an album gifted to his friend Chris Van Dyke. Dupain lost the original negative and printed this variant version in 1975 for an exhibition. It is an image that is now considered an icon in Australian photography, and has come to represent key values of the interest in ‘body culture’, celebrating health and fitness in the context of the beach.

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'The carnival at Bondi' 1938

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
The carnival at Bondi
1938
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1982

 

 

‘The lifesaving teams … are splendid examples of the physique, resourcefulness and vitality of our youth and manhood. They are typical of the outdoor life which Australians lead and they are living testimonies to the value of surfing and the vigor and stamina of our race.’

DAILY EXAMINER, July 1935

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'Manly' 1938, printed c. 1986

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Manly
1938, printed c. 1986
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased from funds donated by Hallmark Cards Australia Pty Ltd, 1987

 

Gert Sellheim (Russia (of German parents) 1901-Australia 1970, Australia from 1926) 'The seaside calls - go by train - take a Kodak' 1930s

 

Gert Sellheim (Russia (of German parents) 1901-Australia 1970, Australia from 1926)
The seaside calls – go by train – take a Kodak
1930s
Colour lithograph
Printed by F. W. Niven, Melbourne
State Library Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mr Grant Lee

 

 

Gert Sellheim was born to German parents in Estonia, at that time part of the Russian Empire. After studying architecture in Europe he travelled to Western Australia in 1926, before settling in Melbourne in 1931, where he began working as an industrial and commercial designer. Working for the Australian National Travel Association, Sellheim created a series of posters promoting beach holidays, which incorporated Art Deco motifs and typography. His most famous design is the flying kangaroo logo for Qantas, which he created in 1947.

 

Douglas Annand (Australia 1903-76) Arthur Whitmore (Australia 1910-65) 'Sydney Bridge celebrations' 1932

 

Douglas Annand (Australia 1903-76)
Arthur Whitmore (Australia 1910-65)
Sydney Bridge celebrations
1932
Colour lithograph
47.6 x 63.6 cm (image and sheet)
Australian National Maritime Museum Purchased, 1991
© Courtesy of the artist’s estate

 

Douglas Annand (Australia 1903-76) Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'Australia' c. 1937

 

Douglas Annand (Australia 1903-76)
Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Australia
c. 1937
Colour and process lithograph
105.3 x 68.4 cm (image and sheet)
Australian National Maritime Museum Purchased, 1991
© Courtesy of the artist’s estate

 

Douglas Annand (attributed to) (Australia 1903-76) 'Follow the sun - Australia's 150th Anniversary celebrations' 1938

 

Douglas Annand (attributed to) (Australia 1903-76)
Follow the sun – Australia’s 150th Anniversary celebrations
1938
Colour lithograph and photolithograph
Courtesy of Josef Lebovic Gallery, Sydney

 

 

The 1930s were the heyday of the travel poster. Posters were commissioned by railway and tourism groups or shipping companies and airlines to promote Australian holiday destinations, both at home and overseas. The Australian National Travel Association was formed in 1929 to promote Australia to overseas markets. As part of its strategy it commissioned posters from leading graphic artists, such as Percy Trompf, James Northfield and Douglas Annand. From the late 1920s Australia began to actively promote itself to the world by using the beach, sun and surf as motifs.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation views of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with the work of John Rowell, Hilda Rix Nicholas, Gert Sellheim and Percy Trompf on the far wall, and Robert E. Coates Photographs of Australian Pavilion at New York World’s Fair (1939) on the projector screen at left
Photos: Courtesy NGV Photographic Services

 

 

The Australian Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair projected an image of Australia as a young and healthy nation, a place of industry, sport and tourism. Designed by John Oldham of Sydney architectural firm Stephenson & Turner, the modern design of the building was complemented by Douglas Annand’s interior displays featuring the latest graphic design, and audio-visual and photomontage techniques. These photographs of the Australian Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair were taken by commercial photographer Robert E. Coates.

 

Installation view of Robert E. Coates' 'Photographs of Australian Pavilion at New York World's Fair' (1939)

Installation view of Robert E. Coates' 'Photographs of Australian Pavilion at New York World's Fair' (1939)

Installation view of Robert E. Coates' 'Photographs of Australian Pavilion at New York World's Fair' (1939)

Installation view of Robert E. Coates' 'Photographs of Australian Pavilion at New York World's Fair' (1939)

Installation view of Robert E. Coates' 'Photographs of Australian Pavilion at New York World's Fair' (1939)

 

Installation views of Robert E. Coates’ Photographs of Australian Pavilion at New York World’s Fair (1939) (digital images, looped)

 

 

Pastoral landscapes

Along with the beach, another national myth evolved around the Australian bush. Although most Australians lived in cities, in the years following the First World War the nation became increasingly informed by a mythology centred on the bush and the landscape. For those who considered the modern city a profoundly depleting force, the bush was a touchstone of traditional ‘values’. It was nostalgically conceived of as an idyllic natural realm whose soil, literally and metaphorically, sustained its people. Both the classical Pastoral ideal of a land in which only sheep and cattle roam, and the Georgic tradition, which celebrated the achievements of agriculture, became dominant themes in landscape art.

Pastoral landscapes were admired above all as representing the antithesis of ‘decadent’ modern life. As art critic and gallery director J. S. Macdonald wrote, such art would ‘point the way in which life should be lived in Australia, with the maximum of flocks and the minimum of factories’. With their emphasis on farming and pastoral industries, such works affirmed white landownership, with Indigenous people largely absent.

 

John Rowell (Australia 1894-1973) 'Blue hills' c. 1936

 

John Rowell (Australia 1894-1973)
Blue hills
c. 1936
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Felton Bequest, 1936

 

Gert Sellheim (Russia (of German parents) 1901-Australia 1970, Australia from 1926) 'Spring in the Grampians' 1930s

 

Gert Sellheim (Russia (of German parents) 1901-Australia 1970, Australia from 1926)
Spring in the Grampians
1930s
Colour photolithograph
State Library Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased 2000

 

Hilda Rix Nicholas (Australia 1884-1961, Europe 1911-18) 'The fair musterer' c. 1935

 

Hilda Rix Nicholas (Australia 1884-1961, Europe 1911-18)
The fair musterer
c. 1935
Oil on canvas
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Purchased 1971

 

 

As a young artist Hilda Rix Nicholas had a successful career in France before returning to Australia after the First World War. In 1934, several years after the birth of her son, Rix Nicholas returned to painting and depicted her new life living on the family property Knockalong, on the Monaro Plains in New South Wales. Depicting the governess of her young son holding the reins of her horse, dog at her feet, and sheep in the distance, in The fair musterer Rix Nicholas claims for women an active role in the masculine world of pastoral Australia.

 

Hilda Rix Nicholas (Australia 1884-1961, Europe 1911-18) 'The shepherd of Knockalong' 1933

 

Hilda Rix Nicholas (Australia 1884-1961, Europe 1911-18)
The shepherd of Knockalong
1933
Oil on canvas
Collection of Peter Rix, Sydney
Courtesy of Deutscher & Hackett

 

 

Depicting the artist’s husband and young son, The shepherd of Knockalong is a reminder of the traditional importance of the wool industry to the nation’s economy. With his legs firmly connected to the ground and pictured as a large figure dominating the landscape setting, the farmer is the benign owner and ‘shepherd’ of the land spreading out behind him, the presence of his young son ensuring dynastic succession. At a time when Aboriginal people were confined to reservations and denied citizenship, Hilda Rix Nicholas’s painting can also be considered as an assertion of the British colonisers’ right to ownership of Australia.

 

Percy Trompf (Australia 1902-64) 'Western Australia' c. 1936

 

Percy Trompf (Australia 1902-64)
Western Australia
c. 1936
Colour lithograph
Courtesy of Josef Lebovic Gallery, Sydney

 

 

Indigenous art and culture

During the 1930s Aboriginal people were often pejoratively referred to as a ‘dying race’. The Australian Government continued to enforce a ‘divide and rule’ assimilationist policy. Determined by eugenics, this entailed removing Aboriginal people of mixed descent from their families and reserves, and absorbing them into the dominant society, with consequent loss of their own language and customary ritual practices. Increasingly during this period, Aboriginal people formed their own organisations and agitated for full citizenship rights.

This was also a decade that saw increasing awareness of, and interest in, Indigenous art. Albert Namatjira astonished Melbourne audiences at his first solo exhibition at the Athenaeum Gallery in 1938. Comprising forty-one watercolour paintings, all of his works sold within three days of the opening. The following year the Art Gallery of South Australia purchased one of Namatjira’s works. Indigenous art also inspired non-Indigenous artists, including Margaret Preston and Frances Derham who appropriated design elements in their works. The idea of ‘Aboriginalism’, in which settlers sought an Australian identity in the context of Britishness and the Empire, saw artists travelling to the outback to paint and sketch subjects they believed connected them to Indigenous history.

 

Frances Derham (Australia 1894–1987, New Zealand and Ireland 1902-08) Kangaroo and 'Aboriginal motifs' 1925-1940

 

Frances Derham (Australia 1894–1987, New Zealand and Ireland 1902-08)
Kangaroo and Aboriginal motifs
1925-1940
Linocut printed in brown ink on buff paper
4.6 x 7.3 cm (image) 12.6 x 10.3 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mr Richard Hodgson Derham, 1988
© Estate of Frances Derham

 

 

Best known as a progressive educator and advocate of children’s art, Frances Derham was also an active member of the Arts and Crafts Society of Victoria, and with potter Allan Lowe shared Margaret Preston’s interest in the appropriation of Indigenous art. From the mid 1920s Derham began to incorporate Aboriginal motifs into her linocuts and in 1929, synchronous with the exhibition Australian Aboriginal Art at the Museum of Victoria, Derham presented a lecture to the Arts and Crafts Society, entitled ‘The Interest of Aboriginal Art to the Modern Designer’.

 

Frances Derham (Australia 1894-1987, New Zealand and Ireland 1902-08) 'Kangaroo (at the zoo)' c. 1931

 

Frances Derham (Australia 1894-1987, New Zealand and Ireland 1902-08)
Kangaroo (at the zoo)
c. 1931
Linocut printed in brown ink on Chinese paper
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mr Richard Hodgson Derham, 1988

 

Frances Derham (Australia 1894-1987, New Zealand and Ireland 1902-08) 'The Aboriginal artist' 1931

 

Frances Derham (Australia 1894-1987, New Zealand and Ireland 1902-08)
The Aboriginal artist
1931
Colour linocut on Japanese paper
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mr Richard Hodgson Derham, 1988

 

 

Margaret Preston (Australia 1875-1963, Germany and France 1904-07, France, England and Ireland 1912-19) 'Shoalhaven Gorge, New South Wales' 1940-1941

 

Margaret Preston (Australia 1875-1963, Germany and France 1904-07, France, England and Ireland 1912-19)
Shoalhaven Gorge, New South Wales
1940-1941
Oil and gouache on canvas
53.7 x 45.8 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated from the Estate of Dr Donald Wright, 2008
© Margaret Preston/Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia

 

 

During the 1920s Margaret Preston considered Aboriginal art a source of good design in the decoration of household items. In the 1930s her study of Aboriginal culture intensified, as she developed a greater interest in its anthropological and cosmological elements. In 1940 Preston travelled to the Northern Territory to study Aboriginal art. On her return she developed a more explicit Aboriginal style in paintings featuring earthy tones, strong black outlines and patterns of dots and lines.

 

Unknown Walamangu active (1930s) 'Dhukurra dhaawu (Sacred clan story)' c. 1935

 

Unknown
Walamangu active (1930s)
Dhukurra dhaawu (Sacred clan story)
c. 1935
Earth pigments on Stringybark (Eucalyptus sp.), resin
128.3 x 63.9 cm
The Donald Thomson Collection
Donated by Mrs Dorita Thomson to the University of Melbourne and on loan to Museums Victoria, Melbourne

 

 

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, segregation was the main government policy regarding Aboriginal people. It was re-enforced by the 1909 Aborigines Protection Act, which gave the Aborigines Protection Board the power to control where Aboriginal people lived in New South Wales. In 1937 the Commonwealth Government adopted a policy of assimilation, whereby Aboriginal people of mixed descent were henceforth to be assimilated into white society, while others were confined to reserves. In 1931 Arnhem Land was declared an Aboriginal Reserve by the government and non-Indigenous entry into the region was restricted.

 

Tjam Yilkari Katani Liyagalawumirr active 1930s 'Wagilag dhaawu (Wagilag Sisters story)' 1937

 

Tjam Yilkari Katani
Liyagalawumirr active 1930s
Wagilag dhaawu (Wagilag Sisters story) (installation view)
1937
Earth pigments on Stringybark (Eucalyptus sp.)
The Donald Thomson Collection Donated by Mrs Dorita Thomson to the University of Melbourne and on loan to Museums Victoria, Melbourne
Photo: Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

For Yolgnu people, painting on bark or objects is intimately connected with painting on the body, and the Yolgnu term barrawan means both ‘skin’ and ‘bark’. These paintings are transcriptions of the sacred designs that were painted onto men’s bodies and convey the power of the Yolgnu ancestors whose actions created their world. The Wagilag Sisters Dreaming story chronicles the creative acts of the sisters as they travelled across Arnhem Land. Such stories pass on important knowledge, cultural values and belief systems to later generations.

 

Arthur Murch (Australia 1902-89, Europe 1936-40) 'Walila, Pintupi tribe' 1934

 

Arthur Murch (Australia 1902-89, Europe 1936-40)
Walila, Pintupi tribe
1934
Pencil
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1934

 

 

In 1933, on the invitation of Professor H. Whitridge Davies, Sydney artist Arthur Murch accompanied a research team from Sydney University to Hermannsburg Lutheran Mission, south-west of Alice Springs. Murch remained there for six weeks painting the landscapes and making portraits of Indigenous people. These were exhibited in Sydney soon after his return.

 

Percy Leason (Australia 1888-United States 1959, United States from 1938) 'Thomas Foster' (installation view) 1934

 

Percy Leason (Australia 1888-United States 1959, United States from 1938)
Thomas Foster (installation view)
1934
Oil on canvas
State Library Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Isabelle Leason, 1969
Photo: Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Thomas Foster was born at Coranderrk Station in 1882, the son of Edward Foster and Betsy Benfield. Foster’s was one of the last portraits painted by Leason as part of the unfortunately titled exhibition The Last of the Victorian Aborigines. These portraits were debuted on 11 September at the Athenaeum Gallery in Collins Street, Melbourne, to great public acclaim. Foster, like most of Leason’s subjects, appears shirtless, his arms folded behind his back, pushing forward his chest and clearly showing his scarification marks.

 

Gert Sellheim (Russia (of German parents) 1901-Australia 1970, Australia from 1926) 'Corroboree Australia' 1934

 

Gert Sellheim (Russia (of German parents) 1901-Australia 1970, Australia from 1926)
Corroboree Australia
1934
Colour lithograph printed by F. W. Niven, Melbourne
State Library Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of the Australian National Travel Association, 1934

 

 

Dystopian cities

Australia was hit hard by the Great Depression. The worst year was 1932, when unemployment reached nearly thirty-two per cent, and by the following year almost a third of all unemployed men had been without work for three years. With wages cut and unemployment rising, many families were left struggling to survive and this poverty was most evident in run-down, inner-city areas. Two émigrés, Danila Vassilieff and Yosl Bergner, were the first Australian artists to turn their attention to the plight of the urban poor and the disposed. Their powerful, expressive style was influential upon young artists, including Arthur Boyd and Albert Tucker.

Economic hardship fostered bitterness and political unrest, and membership of radical groups on both the left and right increased. Boundaries between political agendas and art production became porous in this decade, and many artists believed, like Bergner, ‘that by painting we would change the world’. The complex enmeshment of the creative and political became a defining feature of the decade, and art in Australia became increasingly political, with the political realm involving itself with art.

By the end of the decade the worsening political situation overseas and a sense that another world war was inevitable contributed to a growing sense of unease. Many artists expressed this anxiety and foreboding in their works.

 

Laurence Le Guay (Australia 1917-90) 'No title (War montage with globe)' c. 1939

 

Laurence Le Guay (Australia 1917-90)
No title (War montage with globe)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver photograph
30.4 x 24.9 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of Mrs Mem Kirby, Fellow, 2001

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'Hot rhythm!' 1936

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Hot rhythm!
1936
Silver gelatin photograph
24.7 x 17.8 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
William Kimpton Bequest, 2016

 

 

In this work, Max Dupain has the shadow of a slide trombone seemingly bisect the naked body of a woman in a photograph that, in the context of his known views, is less an erotic celebration of modern jazz culture and nightlife than a comment on the disruptive nature of modernity.

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'Doom of youth' 1937

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Doom of youth
1937
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1982

 

 

In Doom of youth – a title taken from Wyndham Lewis’s 1932 polemical book of the same name – Max Dupain creates an allegorical photograph in which a naked male body represents his vision of modern Australia. Using symbols that suggest disempowerment, Dupain implies that the flywheel of mechanisation has doomed youth (the representatives of a nation’s future) to a bleak fate.

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'Night with her train of stars and her gift of sleep' 1936-37

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Night with her train of stars and her gift of sleep
1936-37
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
William Kimpton Bequest, 2016

 

 

Referring to Edward Hughes’s 1912 Symbolist work of the same name, Max Dupain has replaced the painter’s dark-winged goddess of the night, who tries to calm the putti (or ‘stars’) that cling to her, with an updated modern version in which city lights replace starlight. The symbolism of the giant breast that towers over the electric lights of the urban landscape suggests an inversion of the natural for the man-made. The personification of night refers to the Greek goddess Nyx, a powerful force born of Chaos, and the mother of children including Sleep, Death and Pain. Given his often gloomy assessment of modernity, Dupain’s invocation of Nyx seems appropriate in the context.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation views of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Herbert Badham’s Paint and morning tea second left and Albert Tucker’s Self-portrait third from right
Photos: Courtesy NGV Photographic Services

 

Herbert Badham (Australia 1899-1961) 'Paint and morning tea' 1937

 

Herbert Badham (Australia 1899-1961)
Paint and morning tea
1937
Oil on cardboard
75.6 x 71.5 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Felton Bequest, 1937
© The Estate of Herbert Badham

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Albert Tucker’s Self-portrait (1937) at left
Photo: Eugene Hyland

 

Installation view of Albert Tucker's 'Self-portrait' from the exhibition 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of Albert Tucker’s Self-portrait (1937) from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

In the late 1930s Albert Tucker’s contact with émigré artists Yosl Bergner and Danila Vassilieff was to provide important encouragement for him to pursue his artistic vocation and to make art that was responsive to the issues of his time. In 1938 Tucker was a founding member of the Contemporary Art Society, and he became one of the most articulate voices in the often bitter debates between modernists and conservatives. In the 1940s, together with his partner Joy Hester, Tucker was a key member of the group of artists and writers that formed around John and Sunday Reed at Heide.

From 1936 until the early 1940s Albert Tucker chronicled himself with numerous painted and drawn self-portraits. In these works we witness a harrowing disintegration of his physical self, which mirrored the artist’s overwrought emotional state. He recalled: ‘It was a period when the whole world, and all the people I knew, seemed to be seething with ideas and energies and experiences; and my own mind was a seething mess … The highly emotional, overwrought expressionist paintings suited my state at the time’.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with work by Danila Vassilieff on the centre black wall including Street scene with graffiti (left), Truth, Woolloomooloo (second left) and Young girl (Shirley) the large painting at right; and F. Oswald Barnett’s photographs of Melbourne slums in the display cabinet
Photos: Courtesy NGV Photographic Services

 

Danila Vassilieff (Russia 1897-Australia 1958, Australia from 1923, Central and South America, Europe, England 1929-34) 'Street scene with graffiti' 1938

 

Installation view of Danila Vassilieff ‘s Street scene with graffiti (1938) from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Danila Vassilieff (Russia 1897-Australia 1958, Australia from 1923, Central and South America, Europe, England 1929-34) 'Truth, Woolloomooloo' 1936

 

Danila Vassilieff (Russia 1897-Australia 1958, Australia from 1923, Central and South America, Europe, England 1929-34)
Truth, Woolloomooloo
1936
Oil on canvas
Private collection

 

 

It is notable that the first artists to depict the poverty of inner-city slums were two recently arrived émigrés, Danila Vassilieff and Yosl Bergner. Russian-born Vassilieff, who had fought with the white Russian army, first arrived in Australia in 1923 before leaving again in 1929. On his return in 1935 he painted a series of dark streetscapes, depicting the inner suburban areas of Woolloomooloo and Surry Hills in Sydney. Moving to Melbourne, Vassilieff’s expressionist style influenced many young artists, including Lina Bryans, Albert Tucker, Arthur Boyd and Sidney Nolan.

 

Danila Vassilieff (Russia 1897-Australia 1958, Australia from 1923, Central and South America, Europe, England 1929-34) 'Young girl (Shirley)' 1937

 

Danila Vassilieff (Russia 1897-Australia 1958, Australia from 1923, Central and South America, Europe, England 1929-34)
Young girl (Shirley)
1937
Oil on canvas on composition board
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
National Gallery Society of Victoria Century Fund, 1984

 

F. Oswald Barnett. 'Fitzroy. View from the Brotherhood of St Lawrence'

F. Oswald Barnett. 'Fitzroy. Rear view of house'

F. Oswald Barnett. 'North Melbourne. Group of children in Erskine Place'

F. Oswald Barnett. 'West Melbourne. A Dudley Mansion'

F. Oswald Barnett. 'Carlton. Wash-house and bath-room 48 Palmerston Street'

F. Oswald Barnett. 'North Melbourne. No. 19 Byron Street'

F. Oswald Barnett. 'West Melbourne rubbish tip'

 

F. Oswald Barnett (Australia 1883–1972)

Fitzroy. View from the Brotherhood of St Lawrence
Fitzroy. Rear view of house
North Melbourne. Group of children in Erskine Place
West Melbourne. A Dudley Mansion
Carlton. Wash-house and bath-room, 48 Palmerston Street
North Melbourne. No. 19 Byron Street
West Melbourne rubbish tip

c. 1930-c. 1935
Gelatin silver photograph and typewriting on card
State Library Victoria, Melbourne
F. Oswald Barnett Collection
Gift of Department of Human Services, Victoria 2001

 

 

One of the most visible and lasting effects of the Great Depression was the housing crisis in the poor working class areas of Melbourne and Sydney. Many of the nineteenth-century houses had fallen into disrepair, overcrowding was endemic and a great number of families lived in squalid and unhealthy conditions. Throughout the decade ‘slum’ abolition movements in Melbourne and Sydney ran public campaigns to place public housing on the political agenda, leading to the creation of the first state Housing Commissions.

In Melbourne, Methodist layman F. Oswald Barnett led a campaign calling for slum demolition and the rehousing of residents in government-financed housing. He took hundreds of photographs that were used in public lectures and to illustrate the 1937 report of the Housing Investigation and Slum Abolition Board. This led to the creation of the Housing Commission of Victoria in 1938, with its first major project being the Garden City estate at Fishermans Bend. In Sydney a similar campaign led to the Housing Improvement Act of 1936 and the construction of the first fifty-six home units at Erskineville. (NGV)

The photographs in the F. Oswald Barnett Collection were taken by Barnett and other unidentified photographers in the 1930s. Many of them were used to illustrate a government report on slum housing and/or made into lantern slides for lectures in a public campaign.  F. Oswald Barnett was born in Brunswick, Victoria. A committed Methodist and housing reformer, he led a crusade against Melbourne’s inner city slums. In 1936 he was appointed to the Slum Abolition Board and from 1938-1948 he was the vice-chair of the Housing Commission. In this position he attempted to shape compassionate public housing policy. He later protested vigorously against proposed high-rise housing (Monash Biographical Dictionary of 20th century Australia).

 

 

Scenes from Melbourne during the depression (extract)
c. 1935
Black and white film transferred to media player
1 min. 51 sec. silent (looped)
Courtesy of National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, Canberra

 

 

While there is an abundance of newspaper and documentary photographs which document the 1930s shanty towns, slums, relief and charity works, there is very little moving image recordings available. Instead, the moving image medium at the time was primarily focused on providing entertainment that would allow the audience temporary relief from the Depression. This rare footage depicts slum areas of inner Melbourne, and provides great insight into the horrible living conditions that many Australian families experienced.

 

Ola Cohn (Australia 1892-1964, England 1926-30) 'The sundowner' 1932

 

Ola Cohn (Australia 1892-1964, England 1926-30)
The sundowner
1932
Painted plaster
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Jack and Zena Cohn, 2016

 

 

Ola Cohn studied sculpture with Henry Moore at the Royal College of Art in London in the 1920s. She returned to Melbourne in 1930, where the following year her solo exhibition established her as a leading proponent of modern sculpture. During the Depression the sight of ‘swagmen’ or ‘sundowners’ became commonplace as unemployed men travelled across the country in order to find work. In 1932 Cohn submitted this maquette of a sundowner to a competition for a full-scale sculpture to be erected in Fitzroy Gardens in Melbourne: unsurprisingly it was not chosen as the winning entry.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Bernard Smith’s The advance of Lot and his Brethren at centre and Albert Tucker’s The futile city at right
Photo: Eugene Hyland

 

Installation view of Bernard Smith's 'The advance of Lot and his Brethren' from the exhibition 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of Bernard Smith’s The advance of Lot and his Brethren from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Bernard Smith (Australia 1916-2011, England and Europe 1948-51) 'The advance of Lot and his Brethren' 1940

 

Bernard Smith (Australia 1916-2011, England and Europe 1948-51)
The advance of Lot and his Brethren
1940
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of the artist, 2008

 

 

In the early 1930s, artists depicted the city as a modern utopia, a place of triumphant progress and aspiration later in the decades, a new radical iconography of the city as a place of moral decay and corruption appeared. Painted at the start of the Second World War, Lot and his brethren expresses Bernard Smith’s despair at the conflagration that the world had been plunged into. Based on the biblical story of Lot, who fled from God’s destruction of Sodom, Smith depicts Karl Marx as the saviour who leads his people from the burning city.

 

Albert Tucker (Australia 1914-99, Europe and United States 1947-60) 'The futile city' 1940

 

Albert Tucker (Australia 1914-99, Europe and United States 1947-60)
The futile city
1940
Oil on cardboard
Heide Museum of Modern Art, Bulleen, Melbourne
Purchased from John and Sunday Reed, 1980

 

 

At the start of the Second World War Surrealism was an important influence upon Albert Tucker, as were the writings of T. S. Eliot. The futile city was inspired by Eliot’s epic poem The Waste Land (1922): ‘I came on T. S. Eliot, and instantly I recognised a twin soul because here was horror, outrage, despair, futility, and all the images that went with them. He confirmed my own feelings and also became a source … because of the images that would involuntarily form while I was reading the poetry’.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Yosl Bergner’s Citizen (c. 1940) at left
Photo: Eugene Hyland

 

Installation view of Yosl Bergner's 'Citizen' from the exhibition 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of Yosl Bergner’s Citizen (c. 1940) from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Yosl Bergner was one of approximately 7000-8000 Jewish people, mainly from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, who arrived in Australia between 1933 and 1939 fleeing Nazi persecution. This number included many artists, musicians, architects, writers and intellectuals who were to contribute greatly to Australia’s cultural life. However, government policy remained opposed to large-scale intake of Jewish refugees, and some were met with anti-Semitic sentiments upon their arrival.

 

Yvonne Atkinson (Australia 1918-99) 'The tram stop' 1937

 

Installation view of Yvonne Atkinson The tram stop (1937) from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'Brave New World' 1938

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Brave New World
1938
Gelatin silver photograph
29.0 x 20.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
William Kimpton Bequest, 2017

 

 

In 1935 Max Dupain referred to Aldous Huxley’s book Brave New World (1932) in his photograph of a woman trapped by technology. Dupain was attracted to this biting satire on the ethical dilemmas of social engineering because it appeared to endorse his own fervently held ideas of how modernity was affecting the individual and national body. At the time his choice to directly reference this book was surprisingly provocative: Brave New World had been banned by the Australian customs department, with existing copies rounded up and burned. Dupain returned again to the theme in 1938, producing this variant version.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Max Dupain’s Brave New World (wall print) at centre rear with Sideboard and Chest of drawers at right
Photo: Eugene Hyland

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of Sideboard and Chest of drawers from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Eugene Hyland

Unknown, Australia
Sideboard
1920s-40s
Painted wood, wood, tin
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2013

Unknown, Australia
Chest of drawers
1920s-40s
Painted wood, wood, tin
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2013

 

Unknown, Australia. 'Sideboard' 1920s-40s

 

Unknown, Australia
Sideboard
1920s-40s
Painted wood, wood, tin
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2013

 

Unknown, Australia. 'Chest of drawers' 1920s-40s

 

Unknown, Australia
Chest of drawers
1920s-40s
Painted wood, wood, tin
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2013

 

 

Working-class people were the most affected by the high levels of unemployment during the Depression. By 1932 more than 60,000 men, women and children were dependent on the susso, a state-based sustenance payment that enabled families to buy only the bare minimum of food. Many families unable to pay their rent were evicted from their homes. For those suffering economic hardship, ‘making do’ became a way of life, and furniture would be constructed from found items such as kerosene tins and packing crates.

 

J. M. Harcourt (writer) John Long (publisher) 'Upsurge' 1934

 

J. M. Harcourt (writer)
John Long (publisher)
Upsurge
1934
London, March 1934
State Library Victoria, Melbourne

 

 

Censorship of books was vigorously pursued by federal and state governments during the 1930s. Australia was one of only two countries in the world to ban Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World when it was first published in 1932. Australian author J. M. Harcourt’s novel Upsurge (1934) was the first book to be banned following a recommendation by the newly established Book Censorship Board in 1934. Portraying the lives of Western Australia’s working class during the Depression, it was described by one customs official as ‘thinly disguised propaganda on behalf of Communism and social revolution’.

 

Activism

During the 1930s a small number of artists became active in the militant working-class struggle through their involvement in social and cultural organisations affiliated with the Communist Party, such as the Friends of the Soviet Union, the Workers’ Art Club and the Workers’ Theatre Group, which were formed in Sydney, Melbourne and other metropolitan centres. A number of these artists were also involved with a variety of mostly short-lived radical magazines, helping with their production, as well as providing covers and illustrations. Linocuts were a preferred medium for these artists, as the materials were inexpensive and the images reproduced well.

 

Jack Maughan illustrator (Australia 1897-1980) 'Masses' 1932

 

Jack Maughan illustrator (Australia 1897-1980)
Masses
Cover illustration for Masses, vol. 1, no. 1, printed by Bright Printing Services, published by the Workers’ Art Club, Melbourne, November 1932
1932
Linocut printed in red and black ink
State Library Victoria, Melbourne