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Centre for Art and Travel Workshop: Investigating the Archive - page 2 / 11





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Individual works have been catalogued to a greater or lesser degree by the libraries in which they are.  The National Library has a fantastic pictorial database, the Allport hasn't.  This is entirely an issue of staffing and resourcing.  The Mitchell has been developing its, and now, with such items as the Edward Close sketchbook of around 1820 and much else  available on-line, is also proving an incredibly useful long-distance resource.  Some of the material on which I have been working has been published.  Richard Neville's 1997 Rage for Curiosity is an exemplary survey of some of the holdings at the Mitchell, while monographs on Conrad Martens by Elizabeth Ellis (1995), John Glover by David Hansen (2003) and on Joseph Lycett by John McPhee (2006) are all major contributions to scholarship.  But note their preoccupation with the individual artist.  I have not been engaged in researching an art history without artists, as we were so often encouraged to do in the 1970s, so much as working through works more concerned with recording, classifying, describing events and phenomena, where the identity of the creator can be a secondary issue, although, thanks to the late, great Joan Kerr for her Dictionary of Australian Artists we can find out what me need to know about them.  My main activity however has comprised looking at, taking notes on and recording details of some thousands of watercolours and drawings.  These have increasingly begun to reveal themselves as an untapped historical source material.  

I shall attempt to demonstrate its scope by running through a few slides, on which I shall offer brief comments designed to highlight the ways in which the pictures can fit into or adjust the received historical narrative.  For example even first-encounter works, which we might expect to offer the unmediated view – here George Tobin's In Adventure Bay (1792), or William Westall's Hawkesbury River No.3 (1802) – beg obvious

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