• Panoramic view of King George's Sound, part of the colony of Swan River

    Panoramic view of King George's Sound, part of the colony of Swan River 1834

    Robert HAVELL junior (engraver); Lieutenant Robert DALE (after)

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    In 1832, Robert Dale made drawings of King George’s Sound and the newly founded Colony of Swan River (in what is now Western Australia) that were later used as a reference for an etching published by the English engraver and printer Robert Havell.

    The resulting hand-coloured print records a landscape in transition due to colonisation. Several small farms appear over the hills, the bush has been cleared by fire, and British occupation of the land is clearly marked by the presence of a Union Jack and ships sailing in the Sound.

    Dale shows the British and Aboriginal people in harmony: a solider shakes hands with an Aboriginal, and when a party of soldiers and Aboriginal people returns from a hunt, the solider carries the kangaroo quarry over his shoulder. Dale also pays close attention to the local vegetation and we can identify grass trees, cycads and banksias.

    The elongated panoramic format offers viewers an intimate armchair tour of this scene – a view that could be held in the hand or pored over at a table or bureau.

  • The River Nile, Van Diemen's Land, from Mr Glover's farm

    The River Nile, Van Diemen's Land, from Mr Glover's farm 1837

    John GLOVER

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    Notes

    When John Glover sailed from England for Hobart Town in 1830, he was 63 years old and had already had a long and successful career as a landscape painter back in England. He was challenged by the different Australian landscape and began drawing it as soon as he set foot in the country.

    In this painting, Glover has depicted an Arcadian landscape based on the view from his farm, where Tasmanian Aboriginal people are seen enjoying an idyllic life in harmony with nature. His aim may have been to record a vanishing way of life, as the reality for Tasmanian Aboriginal people at that time was in stark contrast to the scene portrayed in the painting. Encounters between early colonisers and the original inhabitants of Tasmania were often characterised by violent conflict.

    Glover’s work in Tasmania continued to reflect many of the conventions of classical landscape painting, which led to some assertions that he saw his adopted land through European eyes. However, he showed a dedication to faithfully recording the unique features of Indigenous foliage and geology, and his paintings are imbued with a sense of air and dazzling light that are unmistakably Australian.


Landscape and environment

Historical views and viewpoints

After the European settlement of Australia there was a strong desire to explore the new environment. Artists were among those who ventured forth into unfamiliar territory, driven by curiosity about the world and a desire for new and interesting subject matter. The journeys of explorers such as Burke and Wills were also recorded and celebrated in works of art.

  • A landscape in transition

    When Lieutenant Robert Dale arrived in the newly founded Colony of Swan River (in what is now Western Australia) in 1832, he made drawings of the scene and took them back to England to be made into an etching published by English engraver and printer Robert Havell.

    The resulting print records a landscape in transition due to colonisation. Several small farms appear over the hills, the bush has been cleared by fire, and British occupation of the land is clearly marked by the presence of a Union Jack and ships sailing in King George’s Sound.16

    The elongated panoramic format offered nineteenth-century viewers an intimate armchair tour of this scene – a view that could be held in the hand or pored over at a table or bureau, in much the same way as we might pore over glossy travel brochures today.

  • Australia as an Arcadia

    Two years earlier, John Glover had sailed from England for Hobart Town. He was 63 years old and already a well established landscape painter back in England, and so relished the opportunity to paint a ‘new’ and very different landscape.

    The subject of his paintingThe River Nile, Van Diemens Land, from Mr Glover’s farm 1837 is the landscape of Tasmania as it appeared before European settlement. Glover depicts it as an Arcadia, an ideal rather than an actual world. By 1837, most Tasmanian Aborigines had been forcibly resettled; very few lived in the bush in harmony with nature, as shown here.

    His painting, however, contains accurate depictions of Tasmanian flora, including eucalypts, black woods and Tasmanian waratahs. The round dolomite rocks on the river’s course are also true to the area. These elements, combined with the effect of strong sunlight on the colour of the bush, identify this landscape as uniquely Australian.

Endnotes


  • 16 Terence Lane, Nineteenth-century Australian Art in the National Gallery of Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2003, p. 23.