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Centre for Art and Travel Workshop: Investigating the Archive - page 7 / 11





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shock, because it echoes Claudian views across Lake Albano, most recently reiterated in Britain in landscapes by Richard Wilson or Joseph Wright, or physically made at Stourhead, with the Pantheon, like Sydney, viewed across the water.

Because this watercolour, evidently a work of art, rather than a picture of record, it must communicate ethical and philosophical ideals.  Its presenting us with an antipodean Arcadia, where the European presence damages neither landscape, nor its rightful owners, is pictorially implicit.  In one respect this is just one of numerous pictorial articulations of the horrendously complex histories of British relationships with the Australians.  I sometimes wonder, for example, if the repeated picturing of the Aboriginal method of climbing trees, from the Port Jackson Painter around 1789, through to Robert Marsh Wesmacott in 1840, with Joseph Lycett and William Romaine Govett contributing along the way, both betokens a chronic incapacity to comprehend Aboriginal culture, and an attempt, analogous to the way that sets of pictures of the indigenous flora and fauna appeared at regular intervals, to seek understanding through taxonomic ordering.  Works concerned with Australians communicate various things.  The anthropological concerns of the Port Jackson Painter, William Westall, or articulated in the First Fleet books published in London from 1789 vanishes until the later 1810s when, perhaps inspired by the enlightened ideals of Macquarie, artists such as Lycett depict Aboriginal scenes in ways which we have only recently learned from descendants of the Awakabal people whom he represents, are positively accurate.  Later artists such as W.R. Govett also took an anthropological interest, while Charles Rodius made potently sympathetic portraits.  But there are negatives.  The British were occupying Aboriginal land, and, very occasionally, this is articulated pictorially.  Augustus Earle

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