fig. 1
Robert Dowling

The near absence of Indigenous people in mid-nineteenth-century colonial painting has been one of the most potent assertions of continued settler presence in Australia. This invisibility reinforced the myth of terra nullius and rendered further colonial expansionism picturesque. Many colonial artists were reluctant to insinuate the original owners into the landscape, thereby avoiding complicated issues of dispossession, resistance and guilt. Remarkably, the oeuvre of Robert Dowling is distinguished by his depiction of Aboriginal people, not as background figures but as subjects, conspicuously interacting with Europeans, which opened up new mythologising possibilities. Robert Dowling’s commissioned portraits and history paintings of the nineteenth century engage with the Indigenous population, yet the resultant works cannot be innocent of the impact of colonisation in south-east Australia. Masters George, William, and Miss Harriet Ware with the Aborigine Jamie Ware (fig. 1), Tasmanian Aborigines (fig. 2) and Early effort – art in Australia (fig. 3) reflect Dowling’s sometimes didactic, ambiguous and oppositional views and his representations of Aboriginal people can be described as a move from apparent harmony to memorial and, finally, to unchallenged ascendancy.

Dowling produced a number of portraits of Aboriginal people while living in Tasmania and in the Western District of Victoria during the 1850s. Masters George, William, and Miss Harriet Ware with the Aborigine Jamie Ware is a compelling image of interracial coexistence, a rarity in much nineteenth- and twentieth-century Australian art history. However, this apparently uncomplicated depiction of Aboriginal–European relations is strangely at odds with the world outside the painting.

Commissioned by the Ware family and painted from life, the portrait has a vitality and integrity born of truth. Its most distinctive feature is the strong relationship between the Aboriginal and European sitters. The eldest Ware child, George, sits at the symbolic head of the group, his brother William is to his left and sister Harriet and the Mopor man Jamie to his right. The close relationship between Harriet and Jamie is obvious and the absence of the children’s parents implies the trust that Jamie was afforded and cements his surrogate position within the family unit.1 The authors thank John Jones for providing documentation of Jamie Ware’s death certificate. The title of the painting that is the focus of this article has evolved as recognition of Jamie Ware’s identity and acceptance within the Ware family have come to light as a result of Jones’s research. Originally, the work’s ascribed title referred to Jamie as ‘the Aboriginal servant’, followed by ‘the Aborigine Jamie Ware’, indicative of his separateness from the Ware family (see John Jones, ‘The Ware family of Koort-Koort-Nong, Minjah and Yalla-y-Poora in the Western District of Victoria and their patronage of the artists Robert Dowling and Eugène von Guérard’, National Gallery of Australia, 1997, unpaginated).

There is a shared feeling of conviviality and warmth in the painting that is impossible to dismiss. The work is not a projected vision of interracial cohabitation but one that was real, lived and clearly treasured. This painting had remained in the hands of Ware descendants until it was purchased by the National Gallery of Victoria in 2007. Honoured by his continued recognition and identification through many generations, Jamie was profoundly respected by the Ware family.

To begin to understand this painting, we must consider both the artist and the family who commissioned the work as well as the period in which it was painted. The connection between the Dowlings and the Wares was strong: as the first Baptists in Van Diemen’s Land, the two families were instrumental in establishing the earliest Baptist churches.2 See Laurence F. Rowston, Baptists in Van Diemen’s Land: The Story of Tasmania’s First Baptist Church, the Hobart Town Particular Baptist Chapel, Harrington Street, 1835–1886, Baptist Union of Tasmania, Launceston, 1985, p. 1. The Dowlings and the Wares had also been associated previously through their churches in England. The four eldest Ware children and their parents, Jeremiah (1793–1878) and Mary Ware (c.1789–1858), arrived in Van Diemen’s Land aboard the Lusitania on 25 April 1823. Eleven years later, Robert Dowling and his parents arrived in the southern colony.

In the 1830s and 1840s, the three Ware brothers, Jeremiah (1818–1859), Joseph (1820–1894) and John (1827–1891), were pivotal in the early development of the Western District. Having lived in Tasmania during the Black War of the 1820s and 1830s, the Wares would have witnessed the atrocities committed by fellow colonials against Aboriginal people. Similarly, the post-contact violence in the Victorian Western District was also bloody and distressing, as G. A. Robinson recorded in his journal on 27 May 1841:

The settlers at the Bay spoke of the settlers up the country dropping the natives as coolly as if they were speaking of dropping cows. Indeed, the doctrine is being promulgated that they are not human, or hardly so and thereby inculcating the principle that killing them is no murder … Mr Pilleau said, thereby, they would the sooner get rid of them. And he himself seemed inclined to the doctrine. He said, and others have said – and said it to me – that there would never be peace until they was extirpated.3 Gary Presland (ed.), ‘Journals of G. A. Robinson: May to August 1841’, Ministry for Conservation, Melbourne, 1980, p. 26.

Dowling’s portrait, however, attempts to counter such caustic agendas by presenting Christianity as a possible means through which Aboriginal people and Europeans could live together. The pervasive religious subtext of this intimate portrait is thus unsurprising. George Ware, seated in the centre of the four and holding a staff, is depicted as both the spiritual and moral leader of the group. The Biblical significance of the staff locates Dowling’s portrait within Protestant Christian values and traditions that emerged in England during the late eighteenth century. The heavy symbolism continues with the branch that Jamie holds, which is emblematic of Christian faith, friendship, and peace. Jamie’s inclusion within the family is represented as both physical and spiritual, and the sitters’ shared faith is a fundamental cohesive element of the work.

Undoubtedly for Dowling, Christianity was vitally important and informed his personal attitudes towards Anglo–Aboriginal relations. As the son of a Baptist minister, Dowling would have been exposed to the dissenting Christian views that led to the Slavery Abolition Act introduced by the British Parliament in 1833. Beginning in the second half of the seventeenth century, groups of concerned citizens began a long campaign to alter public opinion regarding the slave trade. This cause was championed by various Protestant churches and exemplified by published sermons such as Reverend Robert Hawker’s ‘The Injustice of the African Slave Trade, Proved, from Principles of Natural Equality’ that actively positioned Christian morality as a central tenet of the Abolition movement.4 The Monthly Review, vol. LXXXX, London, Mar. 1789, pp. 284–5 commented: ‘As it has been carried on, it seems a most iniquitous branch of commerce, stained with cruelty and blood; at which humanity shudders, and which Christianity condemns … We heartily wish success to all who plead the cause of our much-injured fellow creatures; and that the sale of this very sensible discourse be fully equal to the wishes of its author, as he generously gives the profits arising from it to promote a good design’. As this passage suggests, the profits generated by this publication and another by John Bidlake went to the local Plymouth committee for the abolition of slavery (see also J. R. Oldfield, Popular Politics and British Anti-Slavery: The Mobilisation of Public Opinion against the Slave Trade 1787–1807, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1995, p. 99.) Hawker, a friend of Reverend Henry Dowling, was an influential figure who died the year the artist was born. Robert Hawker Dowling was named in his honour.

Themes of Christian morality feature prominently in the works of English artists such as William Redmore Bigg in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the second painting the artist presented at the Royal Academy, A lady and her children relieving a cottager (fig. 4), Bigg depicts a mother, accompanied by her children and an African servant, extending generosity towards the family in need. Through this work Bigg deals with a number of themes relevant to Dowling’s Ware family portrait. In her examination of Bigg’s work, Beth Fowkes Tobin states:

By placing the figure of the black servant in the context of Christian charity, Bigg was underscoring the link between abolition, charity, and Christian duty. His painting shares with eighteenth-century religious revivalism of both Wesleyan and Evangelical Anglican varieties a concern with ‘the duty of Christian charity’ – doing good works based in a desire to imitate Jesus’ acts of charity.5 Beth Fowkes Tobin, Picturing Imperial Power: Colonial Subjects in Eighteenth Century British Painting, Duke University Press, London, 1999, pp. 52–3.

Having left England at the age of seven, it is not possible that Robert Dowling would have remembered or even viewed paintings such as A lady and her children. However, it does provide a useful example of the theological and social environment in which his father was raised and the young artist nurtured. Such Christian ideals were prominent in Australian society and were not restricted to those associated with the Baptist Church. As early as March 1856 Melbourne’s Argus clearly decried the position of the Indigenous population in south-east Australia:

We assert that under present circumstances this country has been shamelessly stolen from the blacks We have made them outcasts on their own land, and are rapidly consigning them to entire annihilation. There are but few of them left, comparatively. This is what we would do for that few. We would feed and clothe every one of them. We would have local establishments constituted great centres for their concentration. We would give them medical assistance, protection and advice. We would educate them if we could – Christianise them too, letting the meat-cask, the flour-barrel and the sugar-bag wait heavily upon the Bible.6 The Argus, 17 Mar. 1856, pp. 4–5.

Despite the violence committed against Victorian Aboriginal people by Europeans, Aboriginal workers were common in the Western District, often indentured as stockmen and labourers. Central to their employers’ success, they frequently became close to these families.7 See Richard Broome, ‘Aboriginal workers on south-eastern frontiers’, Australian Historical Studies, vol. 26, no. 103, p. 213. James Dawson of Kangatong station is the best-known pastoralist to have built a lasting professional and personal relationship with Kaawirn Kuunawarn (or King David) of the Kirrae Wurrung people of the Western District (fig. 5).8 Eugène von Guérard recorded the skill and pride of Dawson’s Indigenous workers in Cutting out the cattle, Kangatong, 1855, now in the Benalla Art Gallery, Victoria. After extended association with Aboriginal people and issues, in 1881 Dawson published a text, Australian Aborigines, recording the Aboriginal languages and customs of a number of Western District language groups. The strength of this text comes from Dawson’s ability to discuss both pre- and post-contact experiences with his Aboriginal informants in their own language.9 See Jan Crichett, ‘Introduction to the facsimile edition’, in James Dawson, Australian Aborigines: The Languages and Customs of Several Tribes of Aborigines in the Western District of Victoria, Australia, George Robertson, Melbourne, 1881, unpaginated. Certainly, Dawson was a great defender of Aboriginal culture and did not see the need to ‘Christianise’ Aboriginal people. Rather, he respected the differences between the cultures:

And even, in censuring customs and practices which we may regard as repugnant to our notions and usages, we should bear in mind that these may appear right and virtuous from the stand-point of the aborigines, and that they have received the sanction of use and wont for many ages. If our habits, manners, and morals were investigated and commented upon by an intelligent black, what would be his verdict on them?10 James Dawson, Australian Aborigines, pp. iv–v. Dawson lists baby farming, gambling, the marriage market and slavery as examples of English society’s faults.

In the mid nineteenth century, as Robinson recorded in his journal, many believed Aboriginal people and their culture would simply disappear, replaced by the advancing British Empire. Attempting to contradict this prevalent misconception through his inclusion of Jamie Ware in the family portrait, Dowling illustrates the existence of the Mopor people in the Western District and suggests a possible model of cohabitation.

The success of this cultural model demands that Aboriginal people accept the terms of reference and its inherent asymmetrical balance of power. Returning to the symbolism of the broken branch and the staff in the Ware family portrait, this relationship takes a tangible form. Jamie sits in a relaxed pose in front of the monumental trunk that shelters the four subjects and holds a branch that lacks the authority of the staff held by George. Indeed, the relationship between the sitters is about access to power within the family structure and, by extension, to the land. Furthermore, the painting implies that harmony is only possible if European occupation and Christian morality are accepted. While Dowling contends that Christianity can lead to equality, the distorted power dynamic suggests that shared space is clearly not the same as equal space.

With its positing of Christianity as a solution for the continuing post-contact violence against the original owners, the painting asserts the then strongly held belief in the benefits and necessity of religious and social assimilation. Although not yet legislated in official government policy, assimilation was an onerous and punishing expectation enforced upon Aboriginal people in mid-nineteenth-century Australia. To a European audience Jamie’s clothing demonstrates his outward modelling and internalisation of European values, but more importantly, it tacitly represents the rejection of his Aboriginal heritage. Assimilation, however, was hardly a choice and began to exact its destruction of customary Aboriginal society.

Nevertheless, Dowling’s portrait of the Ware family is a marked break from the trope of the noble savage that was commonly depicted in early nineteenth-century Australian painting.11 Mrs Adolphus Sceales with Black Jimmie on Merrang Station, 1855–56, in the National Gallery of Australia collection is a more sombre and stratified image of interracial coexistence. But to suggest that the process of assimilation was complete or absolute is to refuse Jamie agency in the colonial environment. Applying the term ‘voyager’ to Aboriginal people, Richard Broome argues that

Colonialism is also strangely creative as well as being destructive … Many [Aboriginal people] have voyaged into the new cross-cultural world, exploring the possibilities and flexibilities of the Aboriginal-European interface to create new cultural forms.12 Richard Broome, ‘Victoria’, in Ann McGrath (ed.), Contested Ground: Australian Aborigines under the British Crown, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1995, p. 121.

This hybridity has political power and to deny Jamie Ware’s right to engage with European culture is to force him into the reductive essentialist role of the noble savage. In considering such issues, the problematic nature of colonial representations of Aboriginal people becomes clear. A work such as Dowling’s Ware family portrait gives no voice to the sitter, but rather, speaks volumes about the European culture that produced it. While ostensibly a beacon of interracial accord, the painting’s loveliness gives it a humanitarian gloss that only barely covers the post-contact brutalisation of Aboriginal people in south-east Australia. Further still, it represents the origins of wider and firmly entrenched policies of dispossession, dispersal and removal of children from their parents, beginning with the Victorian Aborigines Protection Act of 1869.13 The removal of Aboriginal children from their families continued until the 1960s. The work is ultimately a plea for the forced assimilation of Aboriginal people into white society and the deep psychological, societal and linguistic damage to Aboriginal culture caused by such ingrained racist beliefs has been too long ignored.

Dowling’s Tasmanian Aborigines (fig. 2) breaks from the idealism implicit in the Ware family portrait and presents a mythologised and popular representation of Aboriginality. Depicted both seated and standing and attired in animal skins, Dowling’s subjects appear at ease in the lush green landscape that surrounds them. Yet this work has an entombing effect and is a lamentation on the passing of the Indigenous population of Tasmania. The long shadows imply that death lurks at the margins, poised at any moment to engulf the Aboriginal subjects and the dead tree trunk reinforces this sepulchral reading. Operating under the still current and incorrect belief that his Tasmanian Aboriginal subjects were the last remaining members of that race, Dowling produced a number of works intended to memorialise a culture. Dowling revisited this theme repeatedly between 1856 and 1860, grappling with its challenges, working through and never quite realising his unknowable objective. Two similar works exist in the collections of the Art Gallery of South Australia and the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery. That these works were considered by Dowling to be of national significance is emphasised by his donation of the latter to the people of Tasmania after his departure for England in 1857.

The process of removing Tasmanian Aboriginal survivors to Flinders Island in the early 1830s supported the commonly held myth of a dying race. This absence also meant that Dowling’s contact with Tasmanian Indigenous people was minimal. Further, it appears Dowling’s interactions with Aboriginal people only started once he moved from Van Diemen’s Land to Victoria in the 1850s. Instead, Dowling based the faces of the Aboriginal subjects in his paintings on the graphite and watercolour drawings by Thomas Bock who had been commissioned to undertake the portraits by Lady Franklin, the wife of Sir John Franklin, the governor of Van Diemen’s Land, 1836–43. Bock took great care to reproduce accurately the faces and record the names of the Aboriginal people he painted, which implies a high level of cross-cultural engagement and authenticity (figs 6 & 7).

In contrast, Dowling’s active appropriation results in a painting mired as much in history as in fiction. The work is based on an actual group of Tasmanian Aboriginal survivors who were brought together during the Black War. As the Trawlwoolway artist Julie Gough notes:

Tasmanian Aboriginal people, particularly from 1824 to 1830, were forced to form alliances with other tribes/bands due to greatly reduced numbers. The pastiche that Dowling painted in part reflects and refers to Conciliation, 1840, Benjamin Duterrau’s (1767–1851) grand history painting in the collection of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. It truthfully depicts the members of Robinson’s party who came from various parts of Tasmania, and had surrendered to him or determined to join his group, to survive and/or work towards a conciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.14 The authors thank Julie Gough for this vital information communicated by email, 22 Sept. 2008.

Numerous interventions into the work, both cultural and artistic, wrench it from and dilute its historical roots (fig. 3). Looking backwards, it cuts across time and space, splicing Aboriginal heads onto European bodies.15 See Julie Dowling, ‘Robert Dowling’s Group of natives of Tasmania’, Art & Australia, vol. 39, no. 2, p. 235. A close examination of the Bock originals reveals the deletion of scarification and body markings in the Dowling paintings. Different clans and language groups are bound together in a colonially induced, stage-managed montage set in a generic landscape. While revealing colonial policies of removal, the work is a pastiche of Aboriginality that recycles familiar post-Enlightenment tropes of Aboriginal people such as the noble savage for a European audience.

This imagined vision of primordial Van Diemen’s Land fuses Aboriginal people to the landscape, though their presence is symbolic rather than actual. This is achieved by portraying them as unknowable and marginal figures inhabiting an exotic landscape inseparable from the natural attributes of the continent alongside the flora and fauna.16 See Rod Macneil, ‘Time after time: Temporal frontiers and boundaries in colonial images of the Australian landscape’, in Lynette Russell (ed.), Colonial Frontiers: Indigenous–European Encounters in Settler Societies, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 2001, pp. 48–9. For a nineteenth-century European audience this was acknowledged and understood as the opposite of Western civilization. This archaic representation has long served to legitimise the cruel treatment of Aboriginal people as pests well in the nineteenth and twentieth century, contributing to the damaging declaration of terra nullius that initially justified the invasion and rapid colonisation of Australia under international law.17 For further reading on definitions of terra nullius and international law, see Lewis P. Hinchman & Sandra K. Hinchman, ‘Australia’s judicial revolution: Aboriginal Land Rights and the transformation of liberalism’, Polity, vol. 31, no. 1, Autumn 1998, esp. pp. 29–30; Macneil, p. 55.

Dowling was known as the first Australian-trained painter to make good in the colonies of Victoria and Tasmania. His success and that of the colony as a whole was largely dependent on Aboriginal people’s dispossession. As an emigrant artist Dowling unconsciously played a role in the continuing colonial project and indirectly augmented the harmful and erroneous belief that Aboriginal people and their culture would disappear. Reporting on an exhibition of Dowling’s works in March 1857, the Cornwall Chronicle declared:

Such works of art as these become more valuable with age, even now these must be looked upon as historical paintings, of the primitive state of society in these colonies, banished by the light and progress of civilization.18 Cornwall Chronicle, Launceston, 18 Mar. 1857, p. 5.

Writing about a similar painting, Group of natives of Tasmania, 1860, in the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia, Badimaya artist Julie Dowling argues: ‘Dowling recorded the Tasmanian Aboriginals to legitimise the theory of white supremacy for posterity’.19 Dowling, p. 234. But in light of Robert Dowling’s religious inclinations, this theory needs to be re-evaluated. Tasmanian Aborigines is distinguished by the artist’s recording of all but one of the subjects’ names on the reverse of the canvas. Transcribed from Bock’s originals, this identification acknowledges the sitter’s humanity. As Tobin makes clear, ‘portraits imply an empowered subject. However delicate and complex the negations among sitter, artist, and patron, portraits are of somebody: an individual with a name, a family, and a home’.20 Tobin, p. 17. Despite the problematic montage of Tasmanian Aboriginal people from different cultural and linguistic specificities, there is an acknowledgement of their suffering.

Yet Dowling’s good intentions and particular sensitivity are ultimately undone by an overarching cultural conceit. Once in England, Dowling perpetuated mythologised ideologies of colonial interracial relations in the second work he successfully submitted to the Royal Academy, Early effort – art in Australia. In this nostalgic and fictitious portrayal of Dowling’s own experience, three generations of British settlers gather to the right of the canvas behind a young boy, possibly the artist as a child, at an easel in the centre. To the left, with backs turned, a smaller group of Aboriginal people pose for the youthful painter and assembled crowd; they have been made a spectacle for colonial consumption. The subjects, purported to be Tasmanian, are nothing more than Aboriginal archetypes, deprived of individuality and specificity. The group hold boomerangs, which Tasmanian Aboriginal people did not manufacture, and their hair and attire is more in keeping with mainland Aboriginal people.

A curious work, Early effort was designed to inflect the painter’s technical virtuosity rather than engender some emotional response based in truth. It reinforces the familiar colonial discourse of control and denial invoking and celebrating its imperialist core. Recent infrared analysis has found that the spear of the principal Aboriginal figure was initially held out in a proud gesture between the two groups of people. This was later reworked by the artist so that the spear is held closer to the body and the space between the two groups becomes more pronounced. Although this revision was perhaps undertaken to address issues of composition, the spear and its attendant connotations of male power and virility is necessarily disempowered.

Discussing nineteenth-century photographic representations of Aboriginal subjects, Margaret Maynard writes that notions of English masculinity insisted that: ‘In the battle between the races, which whites necessarily must win, the presence of the black man is required to represent not just an equal but a worthy opponent even in defeat’.21 Margaret Maynard, ‘Staging masculinity: Late nineteenth-century photographs of Indigenous men’, Journal of Australian Studies, issue 66, 2000, p. 132.

While the depiction of shields, boomerangs and spears in colonial painting and photography functioned symbolically as a means to underscore an Aboriginal man’s potency, they were in fact disenfranchised from this weaponry. One explanation is that the Black War, which raged relentlessly throughout Van Diemen’s Land, was all too familiar in the minds of many people and neutralising this latent threat was an important part of the myth-making role of the colonial painter. The Aboriginal population had to remain tractable for the viability of the colony.

The pacifying and placatory objective is implicit in Early effort. Unable to move or speak, the sequestered Aboriginal group facing away from the viewer is imprisoned within the painting’s own historicity. Colonial pictures such as this confirmed the supremacy of British rule and Aboriginal servitude, and reinforced one of the most enduring myths about Australia – that its settlement was peaceful. Yet, before the 1850s, and particularly from 1824 to 1831 in Van Dieman’s Land, many Aboriginal groups in south-east Australia waged bloody and protracted guerilla warfare over contested land. The word ‘settlement’, with its connotations of uncomplicated inevitability, disables any kind of moral judgement and dissolves it from political and historical interrogation. It also silences any resistance narratives. History shows that the Europeans did not clearly outmatch Aboriginal people until the 1870s when breech-loading repeating rifles made the colonisers victorious,22 Richard Broome, Aboriginal Australians: Black Response to White Dominance 1785–1980, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1982, p. 40. a full one hundred years after Cook claimed the east coast in the name of King George III.

Synchronous with this conflict was the accelerated decline in Aboriginal populations through intolerance to introduced diseases. When Robert Dowling arrived in Van Diemen’s Land in 1834, the Aboriginal population of the small colony had been reduced to only a few hundred through violence and illness. This was a stark contrast to the many thousands of people estimated only thirty years earlier when the colony was established in 1803.23 Figures regarding the Aboriginal population of Tasmania vary. McGrath estimates the Aboriginal population of Van Diemen’s Land was between 3000 and 4000 (p. 309). It was widely believed that Aboriginal people would naturally die out because they were at the lowest evolutionary stage. Over time, their unnatural disappearance endorsed this distorted Darwinian theory of natural selection and, through its perpetual recitation, this myth came to stand as a hegemonic truth in Australian history.

Certainly, Dowling’s representations of Aboriginal people act as records of the colonist paradigm. Painted to assert the importance of Christianity in the colonisation of Australia, the Ware family portrait remains an injudicious symbol of racial harmony. It reflects the hope Dowling held for amity between races, but tragically, calls for the assimilation of Aboriginal people to achieve this. Tasmanian Aborigines naturalises and absolves rather than challenges charges of genocide. The general ignorance of the British towards Aboriginal people and their suffering is manifested in Early effort. With their backs turned, the Aboriginal subjects are not people, but rather, symbols in a colonial discourse that ultimately denies them any form of agency. Pervasive in all three works is a lack of understanding regarding Aboriginal people and their cultures that overshadows Dowling’s best intentions, leaving us with lasting records of the history of colonisation.

Humphrey Clegg, Assistant Curator, Australian Art, National Gallery of Victoria and Stephen Gilchrist, Curator, Indigenous Art, National Gallery of Victoria (in 2008)

Notes

1     The authors thank John Jones for providing documentation of Jamie Ware’s death certificate. The title of the painting that is the focus of this article has evolved as recognition of Jamie Ware’s identity and acceptance within the Ware family have come to light as a result of Jones’s research. Originally, the work’s ascribed title referred to Jamie as ‘the Aboriginal servant’, followed by ‘the Aborigine Jamie Ware’, indicative of his separateness from the Ware family (see John Jones, ‘The Ware family of Koort-Koort-Nong, Minjah and Yalla-y-Poora in the Western District of Victoria and their patronage of the artists Robert Dowling and Eugène von Guérard’, National Gallery of Australia, 1997, unpaginated).

2     See Laurence F. Rowston, Baptists in Van Diemen’s Land: The Story of Tasmania’s First Baptist Church, the Hobart Town Particular Baptist Chapel, Harrington Street, 1835–1886, Baptist Union of Tasmania, Launceston, 1985, p. 1. The Dowlings and the Wares had also been associated previously through their churches in England.

3     Gary Presland (ed.), ‘Journals of G. A. Robinson: May to August 1841’, Ministry for Conservation, Melbourne, 1980, p. 26.

4     The Monthly Review, vol. LXXXX, London, Mar. 1789, pp. 284–5 commented: ‘As it has been carried on, it seems a most iniquitous branch of commerce, stained with cruelty and blood; at which humanity shudders, and which Christianity condemns … We heartily wish success to all who plead the cause of our much-injured fellow creatures; and that the sale of this very sensible discourse be fully equal to the wishes of its author, as he generously gives the profits arising from it to promote a good design’. As this passage suggests, the profits generated by this publication and another by John Bidlake went to the local Plymouth committee for the abolition of slavery (see also J. R. Oldfield, Popular Politics and British Anti-Slavery: The Mobilisation of Public Opinion against the Slave Trade 1787–1807, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1995, p. 99.)

5     Beth Fowkes Tobin, Picturing Imperial Power: Colonial Subjects in Eighteenth Century British Painting, Duke University Press, London, 1999, pp. 52–3.

6     The Argus, 17 Mar. 1856, pp. 4–5.

7     See Richard Broome, ‘Aboriginal workers on south-eastern frontiers’, Australian Historical Studies, vol. 26, no. 103, p. 213.

8     Eugène von Guérard recorded the skill and pride of Dawson’s Indigenous workers in Cutting out the cattle, Kangatong, 1855, now in the Benalla Art Gallery, Victoria.

9     See Jan Crichett, ‘Introduction to the facsimile edition’, in James Dawson, Australian Aborigines: The Languages and Customs of Several Tribes of Aborigines in the Western District of Victoria, Australia, George Robertson, Melbourne, 1881, unpaginated.

10     James Dawson, Australian Aborigines, pp. iv–v. Dawson lists baby farming, gambling, the marriage market and slavery as examples of English society’s faults.

11     Mrs Adolphus Sceales with Black Jimmie on Merrang Station, 1855–56, in the National Gallery of Australia collection is a more sombre and stratified image of interracial coexistence.

12     Richard Broome, ‘Victoria’, in Ann McGrath (ed.), Contested Ground: Australian Aborigines under the British Crown, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1995, p. 121.

13     The removal of Aboriginal children from their families continued until the 1960s.

14     The authors thank Julie Gough for this vital information communicated by email, 22 Sept. 2008.

15     See Julie Dowling, ‘Robert Dowling’s Group of natives of Tasmania’, Art & Australia, vol. 39, no. 2, p. 235. A close examination of the Bock originals reveals the deletion of scarification and body markings in the Dowling paintings.

16     See Rod Macneil, ‘Time after time: Temporal frontiers and boundaries in colonial images of the Australian landscape’, in Lynette Russell (ed.), Colonial Frontiers: Indigenous–European Encounters in Settler Societies, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 2001, pp. 48–9.

17     For further reading on definitions of terra nullius and international law, see Lewis P. Hinchman & Sandra K. Hinchman, ‘Australia’s judicial revolution: Aboriginal Land Rights and the transformation of liberalism’, Polity, vol. 31, no. 1, Autumn 1998, esp. pp. 29–30; Macneil, p. 55.

18     Cornwall Chronicle, Launceston, 18 Mar. 1857, p. 5.

19     Dowling, p. 234.

20     Tobin, p. 17.

21     Margaret Maynard, ‘Staging masculinity: Late nineteenth-century photographs of Indigenous men’, Journal of Australian Studies, issue 66, 2000, p. 132.

22     Richard Broome, Aboriginal Australians: Black Response to White Dominance 1785–1980, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1982, p. 40.

23     Figures regarding the Aboriginal population of Tasmania vary. McGrath estimates the Aboriginal population of Van Diemen’s Land was between 3000 and 4000 (p. 309).