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The Hidden Talents of QVMAG Staff

This cool bonnet is one of six made by Cindy Thomas – a QVMAG staffer with hidden talents. The bonnets will be given to Tasmanian artist Christina Henri for her Roses from the Heart project.

Each of Cindy’s bonnets commemorates a convict woman from Tasmania’s past, and they will travel to Britain for a ‘Blessing of the Bonnets’ before being dispersed across a world-wide Bonnet Trail.

This bonnet was made for Sarah Waters, who is featured on the display panels at the Cascade Female Factory in Hobart.

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Jai Paterson
Honorary Research Associate, History

A French Perspective: Curious Stories from the Expedition

Baudin and Maugé – a story of friendship

On an expedition in which most of the sailors, scientists and artists were in their 20s, the zoologist René Maugé and Baudin, both in their 40s, formed a close friendship and high regard for each other.

On 21 February 1802, Maugé died when the expedition was in passage near Maria Island, after taking ill in Timor. Baudin was devastated.

Naval protocol at the time was for bodies to be wrapped and buried at sea. In the face of this, Baudin ordered the crew to dress in their best uniform and went onto Maria Island, where a full funeral was conducted with all the honours and a memento left to commemorate his friend.

To date no evidence of the memento has been neither found, nor official record of why this happened. What it does mean to us today was that the first European to be buried in Tasmania was a Frenchman.

 

Le Cape Des Tombeaux – the Cape of Graves   

This had momentous significance as it turned the ‘scientific truth’ of the time on its head in regard to the Indigenous peoples of Australia as now they had to be considered human, with full and equal emotional and intelligence as the explorers themselves.

When exploring Maria Island, a small group of scientists, including naturalist Francois Peron, stumbled upon burial sites of the Tasmanian Aboriginal people.

Up to the point of Baudin’s expedition, the scientific/historical world did not consider the Indigenous peoples of Australia as ‘human’. They were formally classified as ‘animals’ without capacity to think and feel; as evidenced by the belief that they did not bury their dead. Previous expeditions had not found any sign of burial sites/graves up to this point.

The expedition named this part of Maria Island and was the site of a hugely significant event in history.

 

Fact or Fiction? An unusual story

On a lighter note, this is an unusual story; where exactly it happened is not known – either Maria or Bruny Island, but definitely in Tasmania.

On expedition ships at the time there was no privacy and space was an issue. Sailors shared bunks, hammocks and there were no bathrooms or washrooms – everyone got to know everyone very well indeed. There was no room for modesty.

Louis Claude de Saulces de Freycinet was second-in-command on the Naturaliste. It was well known by the crew and scientists that he was extremely well-endowed.

When coming into contact with Tasmanian aboriginal people, the crew and scientists on the expedition were ordered to demonstrate a very strict code of behaviour. They had to show no aggression, smile and display non- threatening behaviour in the hope that this would encourage the first peoples to approach them.

This they did: they would look into their faces, into their ears, look at their hands and clothes. It was inevitable that the expedition crew/scientists were also gestured to remove their clothes. It was told that the crew waited with amused curiosity as to what reaction would be when Freycinet did so.

Legend has it that on the sight of Freycinet’s ‘gifts’ they ran away in fright, but not so the women!

 

Councillor Bertrand Cadart of Glamorgan/Spring Bay

Political posturing: Terre Napoleon and an upside-down flag

At the time of the Baudin expedition, France under Napoleon and Britain under George III (and at the time of the beginning of the expedition, Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger) were busily ‘carving up the world’ between them. Both nations went about their colonial and power ambitions in a very similar same way, using their respective expeditions of discovery as promotion.

Partly this was a result of enlightenment ideals that research should benefit all humanity. However this publicity also helped to boost the prestige of the respective rulers.

Although France and Britain had been at war (known as the Revolutionary war) for many years (since 1798), the scientific establishment on both sides maintained contact, with open access to research and results. The war in fact concluded during the expedition, but re-ignited a few years later.

However each nation’ respective governments were not slow to recognise the possible political mileage to be gained from scientific expeditions. Thus despite the war between the two nations, each had given the other voyage passports, allowing their ships free passage without interference by blockading rivals.

Shortly after Baudin in Géographe and Naturaliste had left on their voyage, Mathew Flinders set off on a similarly government sponsored trip in his ship Investigator. The route chosen by Baudin placed suspicions in English minds as to the true motives of the expedition, which they saw as possibly being more about consolidating existing conquests and placing themselves in a position of being able to claim some rights of first discovery than about science alone.

In fact the whole scenario was to play out in miniature off the coast of Tasmania.

On arrival in Sydney, the crews of Géographe and Naturaliste were in desperate need of help, supplies and rest, with much of the crew being ill. They were well looked after by Governor King, with the crew given medical attention and the officers being well-looked after. However the French officers, particularly François Péron injudiciously boasted, in a fit of French pride, that there may have been more to their expedition than merely undertaking scientific investigation, and that there were plans to establish a settlement in the D`Entrecasteaux Channel.

Baudin and King found that despite their respective nations’ conflicts, that they in fact got along quite well. King questioned Baudin about these territorial ambitions and the suggestion was flatly denied by Baudin – he reiterated that the expedition was purely scientific in nature.

The Baudin expedition departed Sydney in their ships Géographe, Naturaliste, and the newly purchased colonial-built schooner Casuarina under the command of Louis Freycinet. This vessel was bought in Sydney to enable the expedition to undertake mapping and research closer inshore than the larger vessels allowed – this rebutted Sir Joseph Banks’ comments that the expedition was altogether ‘too much afraid of the land’ – possibly a reference to Baudin’s choice of deep-draughed ships).

Baudin’s reassurance was not enough to fully reassure King – or at least despite their apparent mutual trust and regard, King was too canny a political operator to overlook the potential political aims of the expedition. In a gesture oddly reminiscent of the larger plans that had played out earlier with the departure of Baudin and Flinders’ respective expeditions (the British being one small embarrassing step behind the French), in late November 1802, he dispatched a ship, the Cumberland, to deliver a letter to Baudin, and ostensibly to prepare for a British settlement in South-East Tasmania. Cumberland was the first sea-going vessel built in the Colony and the first armed vessel belonging to the Colony, being of 29 tons and a length of 40 feet.

Cumberland was under the command of a young and slightly over-enthusiastic Lieutenant named Robbins. The ship was dispatched far too hurriedly. They were short on basic supplies due to the speed of their departure, and patently obviously not prepared to establish any sort of settlement.

There were 17 crew on board Cumberland, including Lieutenant Charles Robbins, Acting Surveyor-General Charles Grimes (1772-1858), Surveyor James Meehan (1774-1826), James Fleming (gardener), Mr. McCallum (doctor), and three marines from H.M.S. Buffalo.

Governor King wrote to Baudin that all Van Diemen’s Land and the south west coast of New South Wales were proclaimed part of the British Empire in 1788, and could not be occupied by the French without a breach of the friendly relations recently entered into between England and France. Robbins was given the dispatch in secret and sent on his way.

Robbins caught up with the Baudin expedition at King Island on the 8th of December 1802. He was actually lucky to have done so, as heavy storms had kept the three ships from splitting up as they had planned. A group of scientists had been sent ashore to the island, and were then stuck there as fierce storms prevented any contact between the ships and the land-based portion of the expedition. The expedition in fact had a longboat break its rope and become wrecked during one of these storms. I suspect you can see the longboat in one of the two images depicting this event.

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Image courtesy Muséum d’histoire naturelle, Le Havre, 18037

 

On 13 December 1802, Robbins entered Sea Elephant Bay, King Island, with Baudin’s ships at anchor off shore near the present site of Naracoopa. Robbins launched a longboat with a party of men. Robbins delivered the dispatch to Baudin, pulled out a Union Jack and proceeded to claim Van Diemen’s Land for England. This was possibly the first occasion the newly-created 1801 Union Jack was flown in Australia.

After hoisting it in a large gum tree and firing three volleys in salute low over the nearby French tents (Robbins had to borrow the gunpowder for the salute from the French as he had not brought any with him), he made a garbled proclamation of possession, and then realised that in his haste he had raised the flag upside down!

The French treated the incident with ridicule and not with force. Baudin rebuffed Robbins with the comment that he had ‘no intention of annexing a country already inhabited by savages’. Baudin then sent Pierre Faure, his hydrographer, on a circumnavigation of the island, naming various places whilst Grimes did much the same in his wake.

Commenting later in a private letter to Governor King, Baudin said:

I was quite sure that the arrival of the Cumberland had a motive other than that of bringing me your letter, but I did not think that it was to raise an English flag in the place where we had set up our tents well before her arrival. I will frankly admit that I am vexed this took place. This childish ceremony was ridiculous, and was made even more so by the manner in which the flag was hoisted, the head being downwards and the attitude not very majestic. As I was ashore that day, I saw with my own eyes what I am describing. I thought at first that the flag had been used to strain water and then hung out to dry.

Petit subsequently drew a caricature of the ceremony, but unfortunately for us, Baudin records tearing it up and prohibiting the making of any others like it. In the painting you can see the French sentry sitting down under the flag.

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Image courtesy Muséum d’histoire naturelle, Le Havre, 18036

So, this concluded a slightly amusing, but ultimately telling small chapter in the history of French-British rivalry, illustrating that even on the other side of the world, national and international politics had a way of influencing events.

 

– Jon Addison, History Curator

A Guide’s Perspective: Out of the Paint Box – Lesueur in The Art of Science

My talk, being entitled ‘A Guide’s Perspective’, I feel has given me permission to take a somewhat more subjective tack, to illuminate some of my interests in The Art of Science, especially the  sketchbooks, watercolour and natural history illustrations.

While my use of watercolour has been somewhat peripatetic over the years, I have always had my own box of paints to hand, which I feel gives me a little insight into the work of Charles Alexandre Lesueur and his role in the 1800-04 French expedition to Terra Australis.

One of the quotes from Baudin in the exhibition that I noticed is ‘There was not a soul to be seen who was not sketching’. I must confess, when I had the chance to see The Art of Science on its last day in Adelaide, it was the work of Lesueur and what was referred to as the ‘fair copy of Baudin’s Journal ‘ that stayed in mind as we embarked on our own family adventure into Central Australia.

Amusingly, the experience of that trip had many parallels to Nicholas Baudin’s expedition two hundred years before. While there was not an outright mutiny, ‘les savants’ (scholars), who were enthusiastic upon departure, soon resisted any attempt at order, ‘travaille’ (work) and of sailing at ‘dad speed’. We found our own Bays of Misanthrope (hater of humanity) and Melancolie (melancholy)  and I observed many moments of comparison in an unfamiliar land.

During the three weeks, as I (idiotically) wanted to draw everything in sight under somewhat (mildly) challenging conditions, I often wondered how the artists/ naturalists fared from day- to-day on board the ship or in the field trying to create the works I had seen in Adelaide: quick sketches of fellow travellers, dramatic cloud studies and finely wrought pencil drawings and watercolours of sea life, fauna, coastlines and portraits of Australia’s original inhabitants.

I recalled Lesueur’s beautifully observed pencil and ink drawing of a Rosenberg’s Goanna from Kangaroo Island, whilst the goanna I spotted at Kings Canyon was barely still long enough for a quick sketch. So much for life drawing then – better get out the camera/phone.

By the time we returned to Launceston, The Art of Science had shed a skin and reappeared, beautifully formed on the opening night here at QVMAG. Most

markedly, upon walking through the doors to the coloured walls and legible layout, it felt like I had opened a Reeves paintbox for the first time – and this was before I knew the colours were indeed based on those contained in the watercolour box included from South Australia.

As I looked closely at works in this exhibition I found myself still trying to unravel a few mysteries. The first pertains to the paint-box itself: a Reeves & Inwood box was included in the exhibition as an example of watercolours available at the turn of the century.

Remarkably, many of these beautifully presented artists’ boxes exist today because they were often gifts or aspirational objects of their age, too beautiful to use or lucky to see the light of an English country lane, let alone survive rigorous journeys to the other side of the world. A complete box of this type box would have included 12-24 ‘cakes’ (pigment and a water soluble binding agent eg. gum arabic), port crayons, charcoal, sponge, brushes, water dish and possibly paper, depending on the fit out.

While I subscribe to the romantic notion of this type of paint box at use in the field I wonder whether Lesueur would have used one; the inventory for Baudin’s expedition included mention of four boxes of colours, and additional paint colours. Lesueur, in a letter to his father prior to departure, reassuring him that he would be working as an artist whilst on his journey, requested his ‘boîte de couleur’ be delivered. Was he referring to this type of boxed watercolours or other similar (French) products?

While similar water-based mediums have rich histories on other continents, water-soluble coloured pigments were used on manuscripts in the Middle Ages and by artists in Europe from the 15th century. Famous historical examples include German Albrecht Durer’s Young Hare and French master Claude Lorraine’s monochromatic landscapes. Modern watercolour, however, has its roots in cartography, where ‘stained drawings’ in pencil and ink were enhanced initially using washes of ink and, then with plant based watercolour mediums, to add further detail and legibility to maps being published in the greater Age of Exploration.

Lesueur’s education as a hydrogeologist would have included the art of rendering coastlines and geographic and cartographic details to produce such drawings using watercolour, his skill being such that Baudin himself sanctioned his inclusion on the expedition, ostensibly as an assistant gunner.

Le Havre was Lesueur’s home town and given the proximity to English trade, the aspiring artist would have been well positioned to try out the Reeves Brothers’ new products. Marketed as early as 1780, the paint cakes were highly transportable: ‘Superfine Water Colour -The Best Quality for Wholesale, Retail and Exportation’.

The Reeves Brothers’ various companies, with many beautifully boxed sets of colours, pigments and accessories, positioned themselves as meeting the need of every artist from professionals, privileged classes, and increasing amateur requirements. The company can even claim that Napoléon Bonaparte was furnished with a similar set during his exile on St Helena in 1814.

As watercolour became popular on its own terms, and as a transportable medium outdoors and travelling abroad, its use by prominent British artists, including John Constable, Thomas Girtin, Francis Towne, John Sell Cotman and JWM Turner furthered the British craze, with The Old Watercolour Society forming in 1805. Such was the medium’s burgeoning popularity that the basic enamel tin, readily available from the 1830s, sold more than 11 million units from 1853 to 1870. Tubes of watercolour were developed in the 1840s by Windsor & Newton but the solid cakes remained useful and recently have undergone a bit of a renaissance, with many contemporary ‘urban sketchers’ buying or adapting the medium to drawing ‘en plein air’, in spite of the digital age.

Several examples exist of Lesueur’s use of the medium, possibly ‘en plein air’. One in this exhibition is the Elephant fish, caught off Tasmanian east coast. We can easily imagine Lesueur in the moment, rendering the quivering, flailing flesh of the sea creature, in quick fluid puddles of watercolour and gouache. Perhaps this represents a new confidence in the medium one year into the voyage.

If Lesueur did indeed have a similar box I expect it would have been used to its best advantage in a consistent environment, where the artist could have control over the medium to produce the detailed work evident in this exhibition. On the former part of the expedition, this meant work on Baudin’s journal along with Nicolas Martin Petit, who studied under neoclassicist Jacques Louis David. They worked closely together on the Géographe initially illustrating Baudin’s journal, Lesueur concentrating on fauna and Petit on people. It has been difficult to attribute many specific drawings to each artist.

One example that springs to mind is a series of cloud studies in white chalk and pencil on coloured paper attributed to Lesueur, only one of which is included here. To my mind, being so early in the trip and crossing the equator, on their way south, these works seem so remarkably removed from Lesueur’s other sketches that I would have thought them to be by Petit, who was familiar with such techniques and mediums from David’s studio. Perhaps they had a bonding session of shared skills and mediums or even swapped sketches with the cloud studies remaining in Lesueur’s possession?

My next mystery concerned Baudin’s ‘long time lost’ journal, which was dragged from the basement of the National Archives in Paris only about 20 years ago and transcribed by the French curator and historian Jacqueline Bonnemains. This journal is not to be confused with Nicholas Baudin’s Journal de Mer, a sea log which was translated into English in 1974 by Christine Cornell from Adelaide.

What has become known as the Fair copy of Baudin’s journal was exhibited in The Art of Science for the first time ever: in the South Australian Maritime Museum warehouse space the huge A3-sized book seemed at home. Initially I thought ‘fair copy’ meant ‘facsimile’ but itis more like a revised or final draft. This, along with the very officious-looking title page, which can be found in the catalogue of The Art of Science on p. 57, indicates Baudin’s intention for the journal to become a document recording and celebrating the expedition.

Baudin had employed a similar process with his scientists on an earlier voyage to the Caribbean on the Belle Angeliqué that included head gardener Anselme Riedlé and zoologists Stanislas Levillain and René Maugé, This journey that was well received upon its return to France in 1797 and produced a significant collection and respected body of knowledge.

The journal lay open on a double page that included an illustration by Lesueur or Petit of a funerary monument in Timor marking the grave where Riedlé was buried next to Bligh’s botanist David Nelson. The remainder of the double page spread was covered in handwritten journal entries in more than one handwriting style; Baudin was given to dictating the content, including transcripts of correspondence, details of daily issues and descriptions of new discoveries – hence ‘fair copy’.

On this current expedition, a necessary stopover in Timor proved disastrous with many crew contracting fever or dysentery. Of Baudin’s most loyal friends, Levillian also died and was buried at sea in December 1801. Maugé made it to Van Diemen’s Land, died and was buried on Maria Island in February 1802. Maugé had been responsible for devising a net to trap sea creatures, Baudin then decided which extraordinary specimens were to be included in his journal.

The journal is described by the Naturaliste’s zoologist Bory de Saint-Vincent as ‘an immense bound volume, lying open upon a table in his (Baudin’s) apartment…contained a multitude of molluscs, fishes and other objects of natural history…painted with a perfection and a truth to which nothing can compare…’

Criticism too was levied at the journal, with the illustrations dismissed as being of aesthetic value only and Baudin belittled with the inference that he ‘got lucky’ in his choice of crew. The criticisms prompted this response from Baudin: ‘The coloured drawings done by Citizens Petit and Lesueur leave nothing to be desired when it comes to precision, attention to detail, consistency and a perfect resemblance’.

I too am particularly drawn to his jewel-like fish, luminous jellyfish studies and shells that can almost be picked off the page. The criticism, seemingly spiteful, however was truthful and necessary for Lesueur to move towards the next stage of his artistic development. Especially as Bory de Sant-Vincent and official artists Milbert, LeBrun and Garnier left the expedition at Mauritius along with other malcontents.

It is likely that in the earlier stage of the journey Lesueur’s skills as an assistant gunner or hydrogeographer may not have been required and he had plenty of time to spend on his many illustrations. An example can be made of the sea snake in this exhibition, one of my favourite paintings. After it was fished aboard the Geographe in warmer waters, it is likely that Lesueur had it in front of him as a direct reference, used pencil to lightly sketch the beautiful sinuous form on to the journal page, then built up layers of coloured washes with watercolour before allowing it to dry and then adding the scale detail in brown ink with a fine nib pen.

If he was aware of the developing scientific illustrating conventions he might have, for purposes of scientific classification, included other details, such as the scale pattern on the snake’s head and the underside – although history shows us many of these drawing and prints from this period were sought after solely for their aesthetic qualities.

This may have been the only snake Lesueur painted despite the comprehensive survey and sampling of the coasts, islands and Swan River region. He could have been a bit snake shy after being bitten on a riverbank in Timor whilst chasing monkeys. His swollen leg caused considerable agony until he was promptly was treated by a doctor, who cut a sizeable chunk cut out his heel and cauterised it, with Lesueur immobilised, in recovery, for several days.

Incidentally, Austrian Ferdinand Bauer, one of the greatest artists of the period, scientific or otherwise, was employed on the concurrent Flinders expedition. Bauer was well known for developing a complex and thorough system of numbering his drawings according to colours, allowing much work to be completed upon his return. I wonder if he and Lesueur swapped notes at some point.

Baudin’s journal is in two volumes, the second apparently incomplete, and in total covers only the first part of the expedition. At some stage, work on the journal waned and ceased entirely, possibly signifying a change in instructions or preoccupation, with Lesueur working more closely with Peron, who had quickly assumed Mauge’s position as zoologist. During this time in southern waters, Peron and Lesueur’s work is focused on more ephemeral species such as the jellyfishes and sea butterflies, whose forms, colours and conditions deteriorated rapidly upon leaving water and would not have travelled well, unlike a sea snake or a chiton in a bottle.

Lesueur’s enthusiasm, untrained style and keen powers of observation made him an ideal student for Peron; he trained the young artist as a naturalist and their collaboration produced many scientific drawings on the latter half of the voyage. They even developed a frame to reproduce, scale and to transfer the proportions of the fish to Lesueur’s latter drawings, though there’s not a lot of evidence of this technique in this small sample of Lesueur’s work. It is possible that Petit used a similar technique to transfer some of his Aboriginal portraits into the journal without too much redrawing: for example, the grid visible on the portrait of an Aboriginal boy, which also could have been drawn by engravers to copy the work for reproduction.

The journal as it exists today has had many of its drawings removed. It is thought many of the watercolour works on blue-tinted paper on display in the exhibition are from the journal. The photograph in the excellent catalogue of the exhibition of the journal’s title page also has the bluish tint. The open page I observed did not appear to have the bluish tint; perhaps this is due to factors of lighting etc. It did have a similar grain of laid paper (made from a fine grid of wires that make up the paper mold,as can be seen on projection, with mesh used later on). I wondered if this type of blue-tinted paper was commonly used.

Blue ‘toned’ papers were developed in Italy in the mid-to-late 15th century from indigo and woad-coloured rag content in paper manufacturing. Turner used this type of toned paper for loose works and in sketchbooks. Essentially, the use of a mid-toned paper enabled the artist to render both light and dark tones more readily. Body-colour, or gouache, was used to produced light tones and highlights.

Many of David’s figure studies use this technique and a sample of this type of paper can be seen in some of Lesueur’s cloud studies (the blue ones sadly exhibited in Adelaide only); the rag fibres are quite visible and the use of white chalk and pencil are readily effective on the blue tone.

By the late 18th century however, French and English papermakers were using Prussian blue and smalt (made of ground blue potassium glass with cobalt oxide) respectively to produce consistently light blue tinted papers for letters, printing, albums and drawing paper. Blue failed to have the effect of countering the yellowing of the paper in manufacturing or with age and some pages ended up with a greenish tinge.

More than likely, Baudin selected the journal and the artists had to learn to work with its blue cast, which looks fabulously ‘old worldly’ with elaborate brown script and suits the fish paintings but which may have been somewhat challenging for portraiture. It is possible that the expedition also had a supply of this type of paper to hand in sheets. There is a delicate rectangle of colour on one of Petit’s drawings that appears to show some hesitancy either by the artist or in the processing by the reproducers.

Apart from the artists’ location, style and contents, there are some formal similarities to be observed with many of these works on blue-tinted paper by Lesueur and Petit which I can visualise as being part of a Baudin’s specific instructions regarding the finished look of the journal. In particular, a considered layout and scaling, a specimen numbering/locating system, the use of the brown writing ink and ruling pen for borders. Ruled pencil frames, writing guidelines and grids possibly were utilised at this stage to enable quick and accurate copying of the day’s drawings into the journal. As mentioned by Saint Vincent, it would have been kept in Baudin’s quarters on the Géographe, a suitably appointed space moderately well-lit with a substantial reference library and a decent supply of brown ink, nibs, watercolours and preserved specimens.

In this exhibition there are also drawings produced by Lesueur and Petit that further show the development of the style and detail required for publication in Peron’s own account of the voyage, Mon voyage aux terres australes. Lesueur, upon his return to France, also produced watercolours on vellum – illustrations that I feel have an otherworldly remove from their subjects in the antipodes. After the deaths of Petit and Peron within the decade, Lesueur eventually departed for life in America, perhaps disappointed by the tepid reception the expedition received upon its return and in the ensuing years.

He eventually returned to Le Havre and became the curator at the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle in 1846 and had a chance to catalogue his work. He died nine months later. In 1804 Baudin’s journal was sent to Paris as part of official documentation of the expedition, though at some stage the drawings were removed, possibly by Peron or Lesueur himself. Because many illustrations were removed from the journal, possibly quite soon after they returned to France, I expect they had different lives and exposure to light, hence their varied appearance.

Lesueur’s artwork was donated to the Le Havre Museum after his death and much of it was published in the 1900s. The museum and most of its collection was destroyed under German occupation and allied bombing in the Second World War. Lesueur’s work however was saved by a curator who moved it offsite.

Many of the species illustrated by the artists no longer exist. Several others are now on the vulnerable and threatened lists due to development, changing habitats and climate. Sea snakes travelling in warmer ocean currents were washed up on Hobart beaches. Desperate intervention is required to save two of our parrots from extinction. Our challenge now is to discover new ways to conserve.

Despite all the name-changing and politics, some of the players in this period of history still have landmarks (Capes Lesueur, Peron and Baudin) or creatures named after them: Lesueur’s velvet gecko (still common in NSW), the tasty Ibacus peronii (Balmain bug) and Calyptorhyncus baudinii (WA Baudin’s black cockatoo). Baudin might not get the last laugh but he definitely gets squawk in.

dewsburytalk2

Figure 3.1:Charles-Alexandre Lesueur, Sketches of clouds made on board the Geographe at or near the Equator. Le Havre, Museum d’Histoire Naturelle, Collection Lesueur, n° 13002-13007.

 

Vicki Dewsbury, QVMAG Guide

Stars and Clocks:  Navigation in Baudin’s Time

Today, the world seems very small compared with the way in which it was thought in the past.  The ease of international travel and communication mean that it can be difficult, especially for the younger generation, to conceive of a time when ships could be lost simply through poor navigation.

Long ago, for the crew of a ship out at sea there was no way of contacting anyone else.  They were limited to actually seeing another ship in the distance and using a telescope to try to determine its country of origin and intent from the type of ship it was and the flags it was flying.

Just as importantly, or even more so, knowledge of their exact location at sea, or even when on land away from well-established settlements, was hardly simple.

We can quote our location on Earth by using two quantities: our latitude and our longitude.

It’s worth mentioning at this point that the Earth is not a perfect sphere.  Its shape is called an oblate spheroid.  Such a shape is a slightly flattened sphere: for the Earth, its polar diameter is slightly less than the equatorial diameter.  Among other things, this leads to a distinction between geographic latitude and geodetic latitude. There is also another type called astronomical latitude, which is affected by local topography.

However, for the purpose of a simple discussion of latitude and longitude, I shall treat the Earth as a perfect sphere.

Latitude is a measure of how far a location is north or south of the equator, and it is measured as an angle subtended at the centre of the earth between the equator and the location in question. Zero latitude is exactly on the equator and 90 degrees north or south are at the north or south pole, respectively.

Longitude is a measure of how far a given location is around the Earth, from the line called the Greenwich Meridian which joins the poles and passes through the Greenwich Observatory in England.  It has a range of a full 360 degrees – 180 degrees both west and east of Greenwich.

The Greenwich Meridian is also called the prime meridian of the world.  However, unlike the equator, about whose location nobody can argue, there is no physical aspect of the globe that determines an automatic zero line for longitude.  This decision is, basically, a political one, and the Greenwich Meridian was finally officially chosen as recently as 1884, even though it had been in use for a long time.

Another meridian that had long been in use was the meridian passing through Paris, and naturally the French and the English had a hard time agreeing on the one that should be used as the world’s zero of longitude.  Even after the famous 1884 decision, the French regarded Greenwich mean time, on which the world’s time systems were based, as Paris mean time, retarded by nine minutes and twenty one seconds.  Interestingly, this definition lasted until 1978.

The exact location of the zero line was not of major consequence.  Whichever definition one used, provided one knew how far east or west of the line one was located, one’s longitude would be known.

So the big question is: how was it possible to know one’s latitude and longitude?  It turns out that latitude is really quite easy to find, but knowing one’s longitude was very difficult indeed.  And centuries ago, it was considered to be one of the great scientific problems of the time.  As European nations – in many cases at war with each other – sent their ships on voyages to different parts of the globe to seek new lands and treasures, it was increasingly important for those on the ships to know exactly where they were at any given time.

And this is where both astronomy, and clocks, come in to the picture.

As is well known, the stars we see in the sky can depend on our latitude.  For example, from Tasmania we never see the group of stars known as The Plough in England (also known as The Big Dipper in the USA), and from England the Southern Cross never rises above the horizon.

Most importantly, the maximum angular height above the horizon for the Sun and nighttime stars depends on one’s exact latitude.  The Sun’s own position in the sky changes over the course of the year, but these variations are well known – so by measuring the Sun’s maximum height in the sky and knowing the date, the latitude can be deduced.

The situation is quite different for longitude.  The view of the Sun or the stars from a given longitude will be duplicated at all longitudes around the Earth over the course of a rotation.  For example, the view of the sky over Sydney is the same as the view of the sky from a point just north of Adelaide about 51 minutes later, and it is duplicated again at Esperance in WA after another 66 minutes.

On the open sea, there was therefore potential for major errors in longitude, even though latitude could be determined relatively easily.

The longitude problem, as it became known, was a major reason for the establishment of the Paris and Greenwich observatories, which were completed in 1671 and 1676 respectively.

As everyone knew at the time, finding one’s longitude would have been a simple matter if one could compare the view of the sky one saw with the view at a known longitude.  It would then be easy to work out the offset.  For example, if a given star were at its highest point at Greenwich at a particular time, the star would still be 30 degrees offset from its highest point at a longitude 30 degrees west of Greenwich.

So, knowing the time at Greenwich, or Paris, or any other known location would enable one to calculate one’s longitude.  We can do this easily today as we travel around the world, and for those not too sure, the flight crew on a passenger aeroplane normally remind the passengers to alter their watches if they were still set to the time back home.  But in an age when timepieces did not work well enough at sea, how was one to know the time at home?

In fact there were two astronomical methods of finding the time at a known longitude.

One method, suggested by Galileo, was to make telescopic observations of the four bright satellites of the planet Jupiter.  They appear as points of light that move around and around the planet in orbits taking known amounts of time, and so by examining the current pattern made by them it is theoretically possible to know the time.  It was only after Galileo’s death that the method was used, and even then, only on land.

The Jupiter method worked reasonably well, and did improve people’s knowledge of the longitudes of various places.  It wasn’t always a happy thing: it was discovered during the reign of Louis XIV that France was smaller than expected, prompting him to comment that he was losing more territory to his astronomers than to his enemies.

Another method involved the Moon. Because the Moon orbits the Earth, it moves appreciably against the backdrop of the stars, appearing to move its own diameter in about an hour. So by comparing the position of the Moon with the background stars, it was theoretically possible to work out the time in Greenwich or Paris.

The ‘Lunar Distances’ method is quite complex because one needs to have good tables of the expected positions of the Moon, and even more complex because the Moon was relatively close to the Earth and the Earth’s own diameter affected the observations, because the Moon was viewed from slightly different angles as the Earth turned.  But it was a method strongly supported by the fifth astronomer Royal, Neville Maskelyne, and developed by him in the 1760s.

Neither method was satisfactory enough to give sufficiently accurate longitudes, and the Board of Longitude in England offered a 20,000-pound prize to someone who could solve the problem.

One of the important prompts for doing this was the fact that ships could be lost at sea if their navigators made errors in their assumed locations.  A famous example was the loss in 1707 of 1550 sailors when a fleet led by Sir Cloudesley Shovell foundered on the Isles of Scilly.

Another was Commodore George Anson’s disaster in trying to find the Juan Fernández Islands in 1741.  His error in longitude caused considerable delay in locating the island, and in the meantime many men on the voyage passed away.  This led to a redoubling of the efforts to solve the longitude problem.

Eventually John Harrison, an English clockmaker, after several attempts, made a clock that worked well enough at sea to keep the time properly, so that the time back home would always be known, allowing navigators to make observations of the stars and work out the offset.  Even a clock unexpectedly losing or gaining as little as one minute over a period of months on a voyage would mean an error in longitude of a quarter of a degree, which can be nearly 30 kilometres.  The main point was that a clock need not be counting time at the correct rate: it needed to be consistent, with a constant rate of losing or gaining that was well known so that a correction could be applied.

Harrison’s great achievement was the clock called H4, which finally settled the issue after it was given thorough tests beginning in 1761.

As is famously known, the Board of Longitude did not give Harrison his prize, instead giving him incremental payments for his work.  It was only after King George III intervened that the payment was topped up.

And so we reach the time of great explorers such as James Cook and Nicolas Baudin.  By their time it was quite normal to be carrying chronometers on their voyages.

Baudin carried four chronometers and two sextants.  It was a good idea to have this kind of redundancy, in case one of the instruments performed poorly or was damaged.  The clocks needed to be wound according to a specific set of instructions, and if this was not done, or performed badly, the clock could become useless.  The clocks were their link with home.  Looking at the clocks, they knew the time in Paris just as looking at your watch on an international flight can tell you the time back home if you have not made any adjustments.

It can be said that through the late 1700s and early 1800s, it was the period in which, through the use of the marine chronometer, navigation blossomed.  Improved chronometers allowed for more accurate positions to be known.

There was no doubt, however, that a clock on land, being very stable, would potentially still fare better than a clock at sea, and it was also important for ships to check their clocks when in various ports.  To this end, many places had time balls that would be visible from a ship in port. It was able to drop down a shaft and this would happen at a specific time so that ships in the harbour, watching the ball drop, could check their timepieces.  You can still see one of those at the Sydney Observatory, and there are several others.

Today, our best clocks are more accurate than the rotation of the Earth itself for telling time.

Wouldn’t it be great to go back in time and show people like Baudin what we can do today?  A satellite-based GPS device shows our latitude and longitude almost instantly, wherever we are on Earth.  We even have maps based on our GPS position that we can see in our cars, and voices to tell us when to turn left and right when we are finding our way through a city.

Perhaps such a device in Baudin’s time would have a voice saying something like ‘In 1.719 days, change your course by 3.49 degrees.  You will be at the island 4.588 days later’.

However, there were no satellites, GPS devices, or electronics then.  Those were the great days of navigation!

Martin George, Collections and Research Manager

 

 

 

 

 

Le Havre to Launceston: Bringing Baudin to the Queen Victoria Art Gallery

My name is Andrew Johnson and my role at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery is Exhibitions Coordinator for the Gallery of First Tasmanians. This will be a permanent exhibition opening in July this year, focusing on the Tasmanian Aboriginals, reflecting on their culture over 40,000 years.

For The Art of Science – Baudin’s Voyagers 1800-1804 I was fortunate to have the opportunity to take a lead role in coordinating the exhibition for the Launceston leg of the national tour. I enjoyed being part of a large team working together to bring this significant exhibition out to Australia from France. It has been very satisfying to be involved in such an important touring exhibition and to work with a number of Museums and Art Galleries around Australia and the large group of professionals from these institutions. It has been a pleasure to see so many components come together to ensure a successful international exhibition tour.

This talk is to give you an insight into the processes of bringing out a major touring exhibition and what is involved.

The tour, to include six institutions around Australia, was officially announced back in May 2015. The Maritime Museum of South Australia opened the tour on 30 June 2016. Tasmania is the second destination of the tour, starting here at the Queen Victoria Art Gallery. We host the exhibition for three months and then send it down to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, which will also have the exhibition on display for three months. The Exhibition will then move to the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney and then the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. The Exhibition finishes the tour at the Western Australian Museum, opening in September 2018.

Except for the Tasmanian venues, each venue will have the exhibition on display for six months. The three-month period for QVMAG and TMAG is because nearly half the works are shared between the two institutions. This is due to the significant number of works depicting aborigines in Tasmania, as you can see in the “Encounters” area. It is important these works are on display at both venues in Tasmania.

Each venue in the tour will have similar designs and layouts based around the same six themes; however, they will all be quite different with a unique selection of works.

All the works by Lesueur and Petit come from collections at the Muséum d’histoire naturalle du Havre. Other international loans included in the tour have been negotiated with the Musée National de la Marine, the Musée de l’Armée and the Archives nationales from France.

Objects from these institutions include:

  • A copper printing plate of the first complete map of Australia, from 1811.
  • The ship model of the Géographe, one of the two ships on Baudin’s voyage. This is on loan from the Maritime Museum of Le Havre. It is not particularly old; however; it was an ambitious object to transport across the world!

The exhibition also includes loans of works and objects from Australian collections. Institutions include the Mornington Art Gallery, the South Australian Maritime Museum, and the State Libraries of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia.

Objects from these collections include:

  • Several beautiful publications. In particular, I like the children’s encyclopaedia with illustrations taken directly from the voyage’s atlas, on loan from the State Library of South Australia.
  • I am fascinated by the Reeves and Inwood paint box dated around 1790 on loan from South Australian Maritime Museum. I feel that this object gives us a little insight into the life of the two artists Lesueur and Petit and how they would have worked.

I am also very pleased and proud to point out that the QVMAG has been able to include in this exhibition collection items that relate directly to some of the specifically Tasmanian works. These include the collection of Natural Science objects in the case situated in the ‘Observers of Nature’ area. Included in the case is the Green or Tasmanian Rosella which has been illustrated so beautifully by Lesueur. In stark contrast is the Elephant fish, which is not particularly beautiful.

As I mentioned, the tour was announced in May 2015, so we have had 20 months to organise and prepare for the exhibition before displaying it in Launceston. These months have gone by very quickly. Organising this tour was a massive collaboration with the other institutions I have mentioned. The National Museum of Australia and South Australia Maritime Museum have taken lead roles in certain areas, such as logistics. This was essential with the huge demands on resources and experience for an international tour such as this.

Bringing back to Australia over 400 original works on paper, all over 200 years old, plus a significant number of supporting objects from other institutions in France including a model of a tall ship, was always going to be a major undertaking. The French were excited but nervous as were the Australians. These works have never been on display outside of France.

I am pleased to say that everyone is happy and relaxed now.

The works by Lesueur and Petit have been divided into 3 shipments to be flown out separately for the tour. The first shipment contained the South Australian and Tasmanian works, and subsequent shipments will follow for the remaining four venues. This plan has allowed for easier handling and more manageable insurance processes.

The objects from France were transported by air with Singapore Airlines and managed by a specialist art handling company. Associated with the transport of this delicate freight are a number of processes required by the borrower and the lender. Obviously, insurance is required for all international and national loans. The value of the French works and objects was significant. This insurance premium was covered for the duration of the tour by a grant from the Australian Government International Exhibition Insurance Program (AGIEI). Each venue had to cover the insurance premiums for the national loans.

A condition of the loan agreement was for a courier to travel with each shipment of the works to oversee the unloading, unpacking and condition reporting. A courier is present for the de-install and following install in each new venue.

Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan (PCOL) is an Australian Government scheme. Established in 2013 the scheme was created to encourage international lenders to lend works for temporary public exhibition in Australia. The scheme is designed to limit the risk for the lender of losing ownership or possession of works on loan.

This scheme was included as part of the loan agreement for this tour. There are strict guidelines for institutions associated with the scheme. The National Museum of Australia is registered under the scheme and coordinated the requirements of the other institutions involved. For QVMAG this required listing all works to be displayed on our website and maintaining a link to the NMA website, which shows their list of works being displayed on the entire tour.

It was important with the works depicting Aborigines and works depicting cultural activities that the Aboriginal communities were a part of the consultation process and given the opportunity to view the proposed works for display at all institutions. Both QVMAG and TMAG managed this process through our associated existing Aboriginal reference groups.

Costs of producing the exhibition were covered by the touring institutions.

A grant from National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach Program (NCITO) covered the freight costs of the exhibition tour and courier airfares and transport. This is a Federal program which supports bringing cultural material from Australia and overseas to Australians and Australian works touring overseas.

International Art Services (IAS) was the chosen carrier to move the exhibition components around Australia. This included the display furniture, graphics and objects. This are a specialist art handling company using purpose-built trucks maintaining controlled environments for the contents.

An exhibition design brief was created and sent out to exhibition design companies to tender. ‘Mulloway’, a design firm based in South Australia, was the successful winner of the tender. It designed all the display furniture, layouts and graphic elements for the six venues. This included a style guide for colours, fonts and layouts. Mulloway also coordinated the display furniture build.

It was decided that there were six themes into which the works would be divided:

  1. Napoleon’s France
  2. The voyage
  3. The view from the deck
  4. The paintbox
  5. Observers of nature/Collecting the world
  6. Encounters

In the six venues, 50-80 works would be displayed. The QVMAG has done well, displaying 85!

Colours chosen for the exhibition were inspired by the artists’ paints: ‘Bladder Green’ in the Voyage, ‘Cassell Earth’ for View from the deck, ‘Prussian Blue’ for Observers of Nature and ‘Fine Carmine’ for Encounters.

It was important that careful consideration was given to the display furniture for an exhibition touring around Australia to six venues over more than two years. All the components had to be moved easily, packed well into a truck and be durable and robust enough to last the tour. There are no crew who tour with the exhibition. All venues are required to provide install crew who work from a tour manual. The QVMAG is very lucky to have a professional team of installers, conservators and AV technicians who, installed the exhibition in this gallery. They all proved their dedication working through the Christmas and New Year period to ensure an opening on 7 January. I must add that the team included our Director Richard Mulvaney whom I believe was more than useful.

The object labels are an important part of any exhibition. The team at MONA would disagree with this statement; however for this particular exhibition it is very important. Many of the labels associated with objects for the tour were written by the South Australian Maritime Museum. All the object labels and extended text for the QVMAG leg of the tour were written by curators Jon Addison in the History Section and David Maynard in the Natural Sciences Section. The labels and text are worth reading as they contain interesting detail about the works.

The other area of significant input for a touring exhibition like this is Conservation. The QVMAG has a conservator of Paper and a Conservator of Objects. Both were involved in hosting this exhibition at the Art Gallery. For Amy Bartlett, our Conservator of works on Paper, it was an enormous task to take 85 original works on 200-year-old paper or velum, carefully re- mount them and frame them. I am sure you will all agree this has been done successfully and that the works all look stunning.

Other unseen tasks of the conservator are the condition reporting and assessing of all objects and works to ensure they have travelled safely and are in condition fit for display. This task was assisted by the French courier from the National Archives in Paris. Having a courier escort the collection is a common practice for international loans.

During the unpacking of the travel crates I took a number of photographs to show how well packed the objects are. The work that goes into the construction of these crates is impressive. In particular the crate for the tall ship model of the Géographe was a thing of beauty, with the ship model tucked in so carefully.

An important condition of the loan agreement for the Queen Victoria Art Gallery and all the touring venues was to provide a gallery that could maintain ‘A’ class climate conditions. This requires our touring gallery to maintain a temperature of 20 degrees +/- 2 degrees Celsius and a relative humidity of 50% +/- 5%.

To complement the exhibition, a catalogue was produced. This in itself was quite an achievement. It was necessary to coordinate permissions, from a number of the institutions on the tour, for reproductions of images, design and production and input of text and essays. It is a beautiful publication.

I believe the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Launceston is very fortunate to host such a significant exhibition for Australia, and particularly Tasmania. The quality of the works painted in such trying conditions so long ago is staggering. I do hope you enjoy the exhibition – and it is free!

I would like to thank Lindl Lawton, Senior Curator from SAMM, and Sara Kelly, Head Registrar from NMA. Both of them were an enormous help to QVMAG in bringing this exhibition to Launceston and I am sure they will continue to play key roles during the rest of the tour.

 

Andrew Johnson

Through new eyes: How Baudin and artists looked at Tasmania

When I thought of a focus for talking about this wonderful exhibition, I imagined the scientists and artists finding and looking at things for the first time in New Holland and Van Diemen’s Land possibly being amazed by what they saw and indeed seeing them through new eyes.

When I entered this exhibition the other evening I was unprepared for my own reaction. I was astonished and delighted by the drawings and paintings I was looking at. (I was in fact looking through new eyes!)

They were so utterly fresh—the vividness of the colours and the clarity of line and form. I noticed the lovely paper and velum the works were on. How did they bring so many sheets of paper with them on the ship and keep them fresh and dry?

The artists’ mediums, the paint boxes and the pencils; imagine the sharpness of the pencils to be able to create such fine and detailed work!

Along with all the artists’ medium, many quires of white wove paper were stored on board. (A quire is, I believe, a bundle of 24 sheets of paper of the same size.)

What powers of observation these artists must have had to be able to look with such obvious interest and with such new eyes and create such exquisite and detailed and often tiny and delicate drawings and paintings of the subjects.

You will possibly know the story of the artists, Charles- Alexander Lesueur and Nicolas-Martin Petit. They were 22 years old when they signed up to join the exciting and wonderfully promising voyage commanded by Nicolas Baudin.

Two ships, the Géographe and the Naturaliste, were being outfitted at Le Havre as research ships to sail to southern waters on a scientific discovery voyage.

Lesueur and Petit did not join as artists, although both had experience. Lesueur was naturally observant and from a young age had collected and drawn from nature, with no formal training. Petit had studied at David’s studio at the Louvre.

They both signed up as assistant gunners, but were quite quickly noticed by Baudin who assigned them to work as artists on his personal diary.

As fate would have it, and thus created as part of this story, the three eminent assigned artists, along with 7 seven scientists, left the voyage for various reasons in Mauritius, then the Ile de France. They had disputes with Baudin, and at least one of the artists stayed in Mauritius and had great influence years later when the final formal commemorative atlas of the voyage was prepared and printed back in France.

However, back in 1801, Lesueur and Petit became the official artists to work alongside the scientist and record all the specimens to take back to France, where they were to be used for engravings for the production of the wonderful books and documents as records of the voyages.

Many of the works are indeed the sketches and works drawn quickly with as much detail as possible to be the great resource for this publication.

Lesueur worked closely with the young zoologist Francois Peron and Petit concentrated on drawing the Aborigines; it was a task spelled out very concisely by Cuvier, the director of the Museum of Natural History in France.

This was to record very carefully the reality of the indigenous people and not to be distracted by clothes or body decoration but concentrating on the physical attributes only.  At this time of the Enlightenment, a great interest was being shown in finding out as much as possible and classifying the physical aspects of different races.

From my perspective as an art gallery guide I would like to talk about a few of the works and look at the artists’ techniques and context of the subjects.

It is a bit difficult to move us all around to look at each one so I will try hard to describe them and then hopefully you will look closely at them and maybe even say ‘WOW!’

As you walk into the exhibition you will see the sea star group of drawings. They are done with watercolour, wash and pencil on paper. The drawing is comprised of three sea stars arranged on a large piece of paper.

The composition really is startling in its apparent simplicity, but as you look more closely the detail is exquisite.

The colour of this little starfish, the scientific name of which is Tegulaster sp., is various shades of red or orange.

Lesueur has drawn these in pencil and then used watercolor to create the liveliness of these invertebrates, which are still lively after about 214 years.

It is possible that he drew these straight from life; they live on the sea beds. On the scientific excursions with Péron, nets would drag the sea bottom, bringing all sorts of sea creatures onto the boat where Lesueur would be able to draw them. Otherwise they would be preserved in alcohol and would lose the freshness and the colour.

A good example of this is the elephant fish. The scientific name for this is Antarctic chimaera. It has an elongated fleshy snout used to probe the sea bottom for food.

There is a preserved specimen nearby which is a contrast to the drawn and painted work on blue tinted paper.  The fish seems suspended as though still in the water; the eye is bright and the colours fresh, loosely painted in watercolour wash. If you look closely you can see creases in the paper as though it has been folded at some stage.

Many birds were observed during the voyage and in the protected waters of the mouth of the Huon River. Péron and Lesueur went in a boat, noticing the trees growing closely together and in amongst them such bright birds were seen flying about in the branches.

The green rosella, or Tasmanian rosella, was drawn and painted in vivid colours by Lesueur. This may have been one of the birds shot down for observation, as the colours are so bright and the detail so carefully drawn. It is on blue tinted paper.

An interesting aside about the blue tinted paper is that only a few years later Turner used blue-tinted paper a lot during his travels. Apparently the shade of the paper allows the artist to be more adventurous than is possible with white paper.

On the wall behind me you will have seen a number of portraits of indigenous people. These are all done by Petit, remembering Cuvier’s guidelines that ornaments, clothing, and scars be eliminated so that the physical features could be clearly seen; this satisfied the demands of the expedition and Cuvier’s direction.

But Petit certainly painted these and let the engraver do the retouching later on in France.  On one portrait he has written instructions for the engraver.

So we certainly see real people. Some of these are of Aboriginal people they encountered on Bruny Island, and with whom they were able to have a reasonable rapport and thus were able to draw them. Some of the other unnamed portraits seem rather like caricatures.

However, there is one of a man named Paraberi done in watercolour, gouache, black ink and pencil on blue tinted paper. Here Petit certainly painted the cicatrices, the symbolic scars, the piercing of his ear, and his distinct facial features. You will notice dark patches, as was a custom, to crush charcoal and rub it on the forehead and cheeks as decoration.

Another portrait is of a young woman and her baby. She also has a name, Arra Maida, and is naked except for the kangaroo skin she is carrying her baby in. She is drawn with black pencil and he has drawn her closely cropped hair and wide nose. Péron noted that her eyes were very expressive and Petit has captured this so that her expression seems interested and thoughtful.

Another portrait shows a young man from Maria Island wearing a single-strand choker style shell necklace.

This and another drawing by Lesueur of a shell necklace are the earliest representations of Tasmanian shell necklaces.

In a case next to this is a modern necklace which is virtually identical; it is a verification of the ongoing culture of the Tasmanian Aborigines.

On the back wall you will see a small drawing titled Shell necklace and a detail of the snail used for their shells. He must have used a very sharp pencil to have drawn this in such fine and beautiful detail. The single shell, a king maireener shell, is about real size, while the threaded shells are less than half size and form a circle around the single shell.

On this same wall are a series of drawings by Lesueur depicting wind shelters. These he may have used as a device for setting a scene for showing the Aboriginal people and their culture.

One in particular has the bark wind shelter used by people on the east coast of Tasmania. A man with a long spear is standing and a woman seems to be tending a fire.

A Xanthorea, or grass tree, is drawn at the left hand side.

The detail in this tiny pencil drawing is remarkable.

And don’t forget that the instructions from France required all these details.

Landscapes drawn from on board ship shows the coastline and there is one that shows Eddystone Point and De Witt Island, which is a profile sketch using brown and black ink and pencil on paper that may have been done by Petit or Lesueur working closely together.

Another immediate landscape is a pencil sketch called The  scientists’ camp at King Island.  

You can almost imagine Lesueur standing in the shallows sketching the scene quickly. It shows two French tents farther along the beach from a pulled up small boat.

The very gestural pencil lines show the reflections and movement of the water and has a great feeling of the moment.

This is almost an illustration of a story which was written next to this work and is worth reading.

Finally I must mention the animals, in particular Lesueur’s small finished painting of the platypus. This was done with watercolour on vellum, which is made from calfskin and has a very fine surface. This would have been done from sketches when back in France.

He has painted the platypuses with rather strange bills: this is possibly because the preserved platypus he would have drawn from would have been less plump. You will notice this difference when looking at the preserved platypus on display next to the painting.

Lesueur sketched the wombats with such delight and was so obviously intrigued by them. In the exhibition catalogue there is an essay showing how the sketches were transformed into the engravings.

An interesting point is that the works represent changes in philosophical and aesthetic attitudes, from the first sketches to the final pictures shown to the public years later.

I think it is so exciting to be given the opportunity to see the original and spontaneous but accurate drawings of Lesueur and Petit.

They took back over 1500 drawings to France and only 42 of them were transformed into prints and shown to the public in the form of the wonderful published accounts of the expedition.

Lesueur and Petit kept all their works, as they needed to refer to them and prepare them for the engravers to transfer them to the copper plates for printing the official account of the voyage.

By wonderful chance and luck these finally ended up with their families, who later returned them as a whole body to the Museum in Le Havre.

Annie Robinson, QVMAG Gallery Guide

Click here to view the Short Talk Series: Lunch with Baudin talks

A Researcher’s Perspective: On Board with Baudin – Some Thoughts about Travel and Work at that Time

As an Honorary Research Associate in the Museum History department my particular interests are Tasmanian photography, ephemera and 20th century popular culture – a long way removed from Baudin and his 18th century travels.  So I have approached this talk as a small research project: visited the exhibition, read the catalogue and then undertaken a wider online search.

One of the first things that struck me was the significant role the artists played in providing scientific evidence of the people, the animals and the landscape here in 1801-03, in the days before photography, invented almost 40 years later by another Frenchman, Louis Daguerre.

There is a wealth of information on the French voyages. Of local relevance in Launceston is the library of former QVMAG director Brian Plomley, a noted authority on Baudin and the Tasmanian Aborigines. Plomley’s books form part of the Museum’s Library, the catalogue of which is readily available online.

Baudin’s travel to the great Southern Lands is a story of professional jealousies, desertions, animosity, deaths by drowning and ill health.

The Baudin expedition of 1800-04 had been preceded by a succession of earlier French voyages to this area. A mixture of rivalry and competition characterized French and British attitudes towards each other’s travels.  For those of us growing up in Australia in the 1950s the stories of Captain Cook’s travels have previously overshadowed all other early voyages of discovery. This wonderful exhibition corrects that anomaly.

Although Terra Australis was a strange and far away land, a long sea voyage was not an entirely new experience for Baudin.  On previous voyages he had already visited India, China and the West Indies.  While this expedition was no Mars One adventure, it was never the less the largest scientific expedition ever to leave Europe.

Baudin left Le Havre on 19 October 1800 and was sailing in Australian waters between 1801 and 1803. He deliberately chose to be in Tasmanian waters between January and May 1802 to avoid the southern winter.

What were the essentials for a voyage such as this? And what was happening elsewhere in France? That could well be the subject of another talk.  An illustration in the exhibition catalogue reminds us of the scientific achievements of the French Montgolfier brothers and their first hot air balloon ascent in 1783. At the Bastille ten years later, Marie Antoinette was executed: a graphic reminder of the political climate.

 

THE SHIPS                                                                          

Two ships were prepared for the expedition. Le Geographe, under the command of Baudin, led the expedition.  It was a 40 metre corvette of 350 tons, launched in June 1800. Its deep draft however made Baudin wary of sailing too close to shore and his critics accused him of conducting ‘a survey by telescope’.

Le Naturaliste, slightly larger and under the command of Captain Hamelin, was the store ship with large holds capable of carrying specimens. It was far slower than Geographe, and frequently fell behind.

Both ships were renamed to mark the scientific aims of the expedition and each vessel carried just over 100 young men, a mixture of scientists, officers and seamen.

A third and much smaller 20 ton schooner, the Casuarina, was later purchased in Sydney in 1802 to conduct inshore surveys. Its captain, Louis Freycinet, was not impressed with the vessel, describing it as ‘badly constructed, too short for its masts and taking in five inches of water each day’.

Looking at the model of Geographe in the exhibition you can imagine the immense amount of work, and noise, involved in handling all that canvas, ropes and pulleys under all sorts of weather conditions.

But also consider this contrasting, ephemeral image of a ship, believed to be Geographe or Investigator, the reference taken from a song passed down through Aboriginal generations:

                A big white bird came flying in from over the ocean, then slowly stopped and, having folded its wing, was tied up so that it could not get away.

 

LIFE ON BOARD

Life on board ship was divided into watches. The crew sailed the vessel, maintained rigging, pumped out the constant flood of salt water and, of course, scrubbed and cleaned.

There is little doubt that the crew’s diet, lacking in fresh fruit and vegetables, could sustain the rigours of life at sea. Scurvy was a constant problem. Live goats and sheep were carried to supplement the dried meats.  Fresh water, frequently in short supply or contaminated, was kept in large barrels. Sometimes birds such as black swans, which had been collected as scientific specimens, were taken as food as a matter of necessity.

Cooking was done on a large iron stove sitting on a bed of sand and stone below decks.

The crew had to deal with the usual challenges of the times: sea sickness was common; damp conditions on board caused viruses and bacteria to flourish; stale air from burning candles and tobacco lingered below decks; and running low on supplies of every kind was a constant threat as was separation of the vessels.

One source suggests that 46 sailors and ten scientists abandoned the expedition in Mauritius on the way to Terra Australis on the pretext of ill health, but more likely because of differences of opinion based on their French Navy/merchant navy or aristocratic/working class backgrounds. There were deaths from scurvy and, following a resupply stopover in Timor, more deaths from tropical fevers and dysentery; men were lost overboard and stranded ashore.

Space on board was limited and for the officers, scientists and artists a sea chest held their personal items and a small desk was their workspace. Wet specimens were preserved in alcohol, such as rum, used both in the interests of crew and science. The bread room was used to dry the plants because it was the driest part of the ship.

At every opportunity in good weather all bedding and clothing was brought on deck, exposing them to the sun and fresh air. Personal hygiene and ventilation were paramount. A frayed rope was used in lieu of paper for toileting.

 

THE TOOLS OF THE ARTIST AND THE SCIENTIST

Sheets of paper were precious cargo. Conditions at sea made it difficult to keep the paper (and the finished drawings made over the three year period) from going mouldy.

On the ships inventory were 200 red pencils, 200 black pencils, 12 ebony rulers, 4 wooden set squares, 2 ivory palettes, 4 boxes of coloured paint and 4 dozen brushes for miniatures and easels. Imagine misplacing or losing the pencils?

The scientists too needed notebooks, labels and many flasks for their specimens.

Twenty-three year old Charles Lesueur, who sailed initially as an assistant gunner, moved to the role of artist after the official artists absconded at Mauritius. His drawings provide a glimpse into life on the ship: for example, an easy day at sea showing ‘one of the botanists relaxing on board, his nose in a book, his legs stretched out across the roof of a poultry cage, his back against the ships railing, his elbow resting on a coil of rope’.

In short, the ships were both the artists’ studio, floating laboratories and menageries as well as a temporary home on the high seas.

Voyages such as these were the ultimate challenge for early maritime navigators who depended on telescopes, sextants and chronometers. On Baudin’s expedition they carried four marine chronometers made by Frenchman Louis Berthoud. We know from Berthoud’s workshop records that Geographe carried chronometers number 31 and 38 and Naturaliste carried number  27 and 35.

Their importance is indicated by a quote of Bernier, the astronomer, describing their carriage by stage coach to the port of Le Havre. ‘I always had them on my knees. They did not suffer any impact’.

Chronometers enabled navigators to determine their longitude, in this case the distance east or west of the Paris Observatory, as opposed to the British system and the distance from Greenwich. An accurate record of Paris time was determined by observing the sun using the difference between the two to calculate distance east or west of the Paris Observatory.

At the conclusion of the voyage we know that number 27 was in a very bad state (a number of pieces broken and rusted); 35 was in good condition and only had to have the mechanism cleaned and minor repairs to the suspension; 31 had very little damage.

From Baudin’s journal we also know that, along the way

no 31 stopped in the morning shortly after sunrise. When it was taken out of the box to be looked at, it began, but at midday we realized that it must have been stopped for about half an hour.

Historic chronometer number 31 returned to Tasmania 200 years later and is on display today.

 

AN UNUSUAL MEETING

Have you ever been surprised to meet someone you know in a place far from home? Then imagine Baudin meeting Matthew Flinders off the coast of South Australia in April 1802.

A contemporary article from The Monthly, 2013 describes the meeting between the two rival maritime explorers.

Baudin was 20 years older than the intensively competitive Flinders. Flinders did not speak French and Baudin’s English was very bad. Even with Dr Robert Brown, the Investigator’s botanist translating, misunderstandings flew thick and fast.  Baudin was somewhat star struck, enthusiastic to the point of excitement. Flinders was formal and reserved. On departing, Flinders recommended nearby Kangaroo Island as a good spot for a feed.

 

A NECESSARY BREAK IN SYDNEY AND A REUNION

As I mentioned earlier, separation of the vessels and ill health were ongoing problems. For example, at Sydney in 1802 Geographe limped into port to find Naturaliste had departed four weeks earlier. It was suggested that only four of the men on board were fit for duty and the English crew from Investigator had to help tow the ship into port.

At this time the French took the opportunity to resupply their ships with 60 casks of flour and 25 casks of salt meat. Baudin and Flinders met again when Governor King, who conveniently spoke French, entertained the officers.

Back in Sydney Captain Hamelin prepared to sail Naturaliste to France with the valued collections. A number of people who, in Baudin’s estimation, ‘had been less than zealous in the performance of their duties’ were similarly despatched. Even after Baudin’s death fellow expeditioners Peron and Freycinet continued to tarnish his reputation.

According to Christine Cornell, an Australian who translated Baudin’s records

He was misunderstood, much maligned, and had a lot of trying situations and people to cope with. He could be crusty and impatient, and unnecessarily formal in his attitude to people.  

Another important consideration is the many voices represented in the surviving records, and the complexity of various translations.

 

A PRECIOUS CARGO ON THE VOYAGE HOME                                                            

Baudin did not ever return to France, having died of tuberculosis en route to Mauritius in September 1803. However, more than 100,000 dried and preserved specimens and objects were shipped back to France.

Included in the cargo were 72 live animals: kangaroos, turtles, parakeets, emus and black swans, collected on the instructions of Napoleon Bonaparte and intended for the gardens of his wife Josephine at Malmaison on the outskirts of Paris. On the way home in the Gulf of Carpentaria heavy seas affected the kangaroos and emus so badly that they had to be force-fed rice mash, wine and sugar to be kept alive. The last emu survived in Paris until 1822.  A ceramic plate in the exhibition shows kangaroos grazing in the menagerie at the Museum of Natural History, Paris.

Incidentally, not all of these animals were collected by the expeditioners. Two black swans which became well-known inhabitants of Josephine’s gardens were purchased from local collectors at Port Jackson, and live emus, a tame kangaroo and three wombats were purchased from sealers on King Island.

 

THE LEGACY OF THE EXPEDITION

Baudin’s legacy was a significant visual record and an extensive collection of scientific specimens. In addition, he charted for the first time nearly two-thirds of the Australian coastline, some 600 kilometres. These artistic, scientific and cartographic achievements added immensely to the knowledge of Terra Australis and the richness and diversity of life here.

In this exhibition we are privileged to see authentic objects and images from the expedition. Each work is a memory fragment of the adventures, trials and tribulations of the voyage.  When you stand before these works a connection is created between the object and the viewer, a portal into another time. It is something that cannot be replicated in this digital age and, for me, emphasises the significance of museum collections and the countless stories they reveal.

 

AND FINALLY

Travel on board would not be complete without a stowaway. Last night, as I did a last minute Google search, I came across the name of Mary Beckwith, transported to Sydney with her mother in 1801. It is suggested that she may have been a clandestine passenger on Geographe when it sailed from Sydney in November 1802, in the company of Baudin…

 

Rhonda Hamilton, QVMAG Honorary Research Associate

Why was France interested in Tasmania? The early accounts of the French expeditions to Van Diemen’s Land.

This exhibition celebrates the scientific expedition of Nicholas Baudin who sailed from Le Havre on 19 October 1880 in command of two ships, the Géographe and the Naturaliste. On board were 22 scholars, scientists and artists (savants), with expertise in botany, zoology, mineralogy, geography, astronomy, cartography and art. The names of the ships were in recognition of the scientific aims of the expedition to the South Pacific with the primary focus on New Holland and Van Diemen’s Land.

Baudin’s was not the first French expedition to the region. Under the patronage of the Bourbon court, Antoine de Bougainville sailed near northern Australia in 1768; Jean-François de Galaup, Compte de La Pérouse, explored the east coast of Australia in 1785; and Antoine Raymond Joseph de Bruni d’Entrecasteaux visited Van Diemen’s Land in 1791.

And of course there were the British, who had already a stated an interest in the region through the voyages of James Cook in the 1770s.  One of his navigators, Tobias Furneaux, made a separate trawl of southern and eastern Tasmania between February and May 1773 before re-joining Cook and the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 at the location of what is now Sydney.  This then led to regular forays up and down the east coast and Van Diemen’s Land.

Why was there so much interest in the Pacific region at this time? Most of it, of course, was geopolitical. England and France had always been competitive, if not at war, for much of the millennium. The 17th and 18th centuries saw the expansion of Europe into what was known as the New World. Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands were out of the block early but by the mid-18th century, Britain and France could see the great benefits of conquest and the reward of empire. This led to a dramatic increase in sea explorations for largely economic gain to help feed the growing aspirations of these two powerful emerging countries.

At the same time the discoveries of the New World encouraged a wave of scientific interest coupled with a curiosity for understanding the people and places of an ever-expanding globe. It became a matter of national pride to explore the world and to publish maps and accounts of the discoveries. It was in part a time of enlightenment where science and learning transcended national boundaries and with a view that it was a benefit to all humanity. Communication across the many science disciplines was good as scientists seemed prepared to share their discoveries. In fact, it became quite ‘the thing’ to publish accounts of expeditions.

The La Pérouse expedition was to complete the Pacific discoveries of Cook (whom La Pérouse greatly admired), correct and complete maps of the area, establish trade contacts, open new maritime routes and enrich French science and scientific collections. The objectives were geographic, scientific, ethnological, economic and political, with a view to establishing possible French bases in the region.

Demonstrating that science can transcend politics, Joseph Banks, the botanist of the Cook voyage to Australia, helped La Pérouse to secure two compasses that had belonged to Cook and recommended maritime suppliers in England to equip the expedition with the best navigational instruments available. A young Napoleon Bonaparte applied to join the expedition but did not make the final list.

The expedition arrived in Botany Bay on 24 January 1788, two days before Captain Arthur Phillip moved the colony from there to Port Jackson.  The British received La Pérouse courteously, and each captain, through his officers, offered the other any assistance and needed supplies. La Pérouse spent six weeks in the colony and this was his last recorded landfall. He took the opportunity to send his journals, some charts and also some letters back to Europe with a British naval ship from the First Fleet. The documents that he dispatched from the in-progress expedition were returned to France, where they were published after his presumed death.

In September 1791 France decided to send an expedition in search of La Pérouse under the command of Bruni d’Entrecasteaux. The plan for the voyage was to proceed to New Holland with particular emphasis on Van Diemen’s Land where it was thought La Pérouse may be—and if he were not found there, then the instruction was to search the wider Pacific.

This expedition made two stops in Van Diemen’s Land, staying about 5 weeks in 1792 and again in 1793 in Recherche Bay, which was named after one of his ships. They did a thorough survey of the southern Tasmanian coastline, recording the flora, fauna and the people that they came in contact with. On board were five scientists including the botanist Jacques de La Billardière; a gardener, Félix de Lahaie; and artist Nicolas Piron.

Although finding La Pérouse was their mission, they clearly were not wasting the trip. The charts of the coastline by the hydrographer Beautemps-Beaupré were published as an atlas in 1807 and were the primary maps used by the British for many years. On the second visit they narrowly missed discovering that Van Diemen’s Land was an island; they hit bad weather while sailing along the southern Victorian coast and headed south for the known protective waters of Recherche Bay. Back there they continued their scientific research of the region, including Storm Bay.  They discovered the mouth of what they called Rivière du Nord, now the Derwent River.

D’Entrecasteaux continued the long vain search for La Pérouse with an ever-increasingly fractious crew who had grown tired of the voyage.  They held largely republican views, while the officers and scientists were royalists. D’Entrecasteaux died of scurvy before the ships made it to Surabaya, in what is now Indonesia. There they discovered that France had been proclaimed a republic and that their King had been beheaded. The then commander, Auribeau, handed the ships over to the Dutch authorities so that the new French government would not profit by them. He died a month later and the subsequent commander, Rossel, sailed the ships to South Africa where they were captured by the British who were now at war with France. After peace was restored in 1802, all the papers of the expedition were returned to Rossel, who then was able to publish a narrative of this important expedition.

Joseph Banks gets another mention in this story, as La Billardière appealed to him for the return of his herbarium collection when he eventually made it back to France in 1796. The collection, considered as spoils of war, had been deposited in the British Museum. Banks was able to secure the return of the collection, noting:

… his Majesty’s Ministers have thought it necessary for the honour of the British nation and for the advancement of Science that the right of the Captors to the Collection should be on this occasion wav’d and that the whole should be returned to M. de Billardière, in order that he may be able to publish his Observations on Natural History in a complete manner … By this her Majesty will lose an acquisition to her herbarium, which I very much wish’d to see deposited there, but the national character of Great Britain will certainly gain much credit for holding a conduct towards Science and Scientific men liberal in the highest degree.

In 1799 La Billardière was able to publish the popular account of his voyage, entitled Relation du Voyage à la Recherché de La Pérouse, and in 1807 he published Novae Hollandiae Plantarum Specimen, which was the first general description of the flora of Australia.

Having set the scene, I now move on to Baudin, who sets off one year after La Billardière’s account of d’Entrecasteaux’s expedition was published. My point in providing the preamble is to highlight the great interest that there was, in both France and Britain, in the Pacific region at this time. In many ways the d’Entrecasteaux expedition put Tasmania on the map, despite the strait that separated it from the mainland hot having been found.

Unlike his predecessor, Baudin’s expedition was primarily motivated by science and the discovery of the ‘new’. Baudin, with the backing of the Institut National, had little trouble gaining the financial support of the newly installed First Consul, Napoleon Bonaparte, who after all had wanted to join the La Pérouse expedition some years earlier. This expedition would have no territorial or military ambition. The benefit for France would be the national prestige associated with the discoveries, and the advancement of science.  These were high ideals for a young republic.

Baudin nearly didn’t get out of French waters. He was intercepted by a British naval ship that was blockading Le Havre to capture French cargo. Despite the war that had been going since 1793, Baudin had secured a British Admiralty passport that provided ships with immunity from seizure. Once his papers had been assessed, a toast was made to the success of the mission. The camaraderie was such that Baudin gave the English captain a tour of his own ship and presented him with one of his expedition medallions minted in celebration of the voyage.

Despite this show of rapprochement, the British authorities, including Banks, were suspicious of the French motives, especially after Bonaparte’s territorial gains in northern Africa. Within a month of Baudin’s departure, Britain supported a voyage of discovery by Matthew Flinders, who had recently returned from Port Jackson, with the ambition to at least match the French scientific interests in New Holland. Baudin and Flinders actually met on the coast of South Australia in what Flinders named Encounter Bay in April 1802. They exchanged pleasantries and swapped scientific notes before each set off on his own course. One can only imagine the rivalry behind the good manners. It was a big continent to explore, and the timing and intent of each expedition must have been galling to the other. It must have been disappointing to Baudin that Flinders had beaten him in charting the greater part of New Holland by a matter of months.

As I am the first of 19 special lunchtime talks on this expedition I don’t intend on going into the detail of the expedition. That is for those following me. However I do want to make a few observations that say a little about their experiences and travails. You will note that the two key artists of the expedition were Charles-Alexandre Lesuer and Nicolas-Martin Petit. They were not included in the official quota of three artists but joined the expedition as Assistant Gunners, to illustrate Baudin’s journal. When the expedition reached Mauritius, 10 scientists left after a dispute which included the three official artists. What hindsight, or luck, for Baudin; without Lesuer and Petit, there would not be the graphic images we can see today. What excitement for these two young artists, who produced some of the earliest European views of Australian fauna and the Indigenous peoples.

You will also note that there are very few plant and landscape illustrations. François Péron, who was the chief zoologist, insisted that the artists record what was of interest to his scientific interest. Fortunately, Lesuer and Petit understood the importance of illustrating the fauna in the natural habitat, so we do have a semblance of the landscapes they saw. Péron was also interested in Anthropology and again, through the artists’ illustrations, we see some of the first realistic recording of Indigenous people and their customs, especially in Van Diemen’s Land where they spent so much time.

There was clearly tension on the voyage, even after Mauritius. Louis Freycinet was very critical of Péron, whom he blamed for the delay in charting the coastline and letting Flinders get the jump because time was wasted collecting and illustrating. He noted ‘we wasted so much time picking up shelIs and collecting butterflies in Van Diemen’s Land!‘  I don’t think we have any idea of the dynamics on the expedition but when one spends nearly four years in cramped quarters far from the normal luxuries of civilisation, it would be surprising if there were not spats and professional rivalry.

In summary, the expedition was an outstanding success for science and France’s reputation. They collected over 100,000 specimens including 2,500 new species. Fifteen hundred illustrations were completed from thousands of sketches. And thanks to Flinders being held under house arrest in Mauritius for seven years from 1803 because France was again at war with Britain, the first complete chart of Australia was that of Freycinet, published in 1811.  Flinders’ map and journal from his expedition was eventually published in 1814, a day before Flinders died.

Seventy-two live animals were penned on the ships, including the King Island dwarf emu and a large quantity of live potted plants, of which many were given to Bonaparte’s wife Josephine for her garden at Malmaison and the Jardin des Plantes in Paris.

After so much discovery, Baudin didn’t get a triumphant return. He died in Mauritius of tuberculosis on his return voyage, just three months before Flinders was detained there.  Such was the professional rivalry that the expedition account was penned by Péron, who largely wrote Baudin out of the account. There is only one reference to Baudin in the entire expedition journal. In his absence his detractors were able to claim a lot of the glory, including some of the disaffected scientists who had left the expedition in Mauritius.

Despite all the science, were their motives entirely scientific? In an early communication back in France, Péron concluded that ‘New Holland must be taken from the English and, above all, must be taken without delay’. Freycinet’s detailed map of the southern coast was titled Terre Napoleon. They also made detailed plans and drawings of Sydney and its military defences. One can only wonder what might have been if La Pérouse, d’Entrecasteaux and Baudin had made it back to France to report on their discoveries. And if it were not for Bonaparte’s distraction and detention in Europe following the return of the Baudin expedition, the European colonisation of Australia may have been very different.  

In conclusion, I commend The Art of Science: Baudin’s Voyagers 1800-1804 to you. Baudin’s was a special expedition that deserves to return to Australia as this exhibition. Considering its importance to Tasmania, we are fortunate to share this exhibition with TMAG in Hobart, allowing many more Tasmanians the opportunity to see what the French expeditioners witnessed when they first visited this island so many years ago.

I thank the Australian institutions involved with this touring exhibition for their cooperation. It has been a big undertaking. Each venue will include different works so no two exhibitions will be the same. I also commend the wonderful catalogue, which is available in our shop. My thanks to all the QVMAG staff who worked on the exhibition and to the speakers who will be following me. We have an exciting public program around this exhibition, so do look at what is on over the next few months. I strongly recommend that you come back this Thursday to hear Annie Robinson, a Queen Victoria Art Gallery guide, speak about ‘Through my eyes: how Baudin and artists looked at Tasmania’.

Richard Mulvaney, QVMAG Director

Click here to view the Short Talk Series: Lunch with Baudin talks

History out and about during the holidays …

While cataloguing the Frank Heyward collection of Tasmanian Aboriginal stone tools I came across two examples marked: C Coghlan, Lake Leake, 1937.

A search of Trove showed that Mr Cyril W Coghlan ran the Government Accommodation House at Lake Leake and made regular reports to the The Examiner on the numbers of trout landed by visiting anglers. The Lake Leake Visitors Book (also held by QVMAG) records the Coglans taking over on 1 October 1920.

Obviously this warranted a ‘field trip’ to Lake Leake to explore the old accommodation house, now the Lake Leake Inn.

Such luck – another visitor just happened to be a Coghlan descendant and he pointed out ‘Coghlan Cottage’, still standing amongst the trees near the camping area. Imagine bringing up a young family in this two-roomed shack! The Lake Leake Community Social Club has taken over the lease and intends to restore the building.

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Jai Paterson
Honorary Research Associate, History

Through New Eyes: How Baudin and Artists Look at Tasmania

When I thought of a focus for talking in this wonderful exhibition, I imagined the scientists and artists finding and looking at things for the first time in New Holland and Van Diemen’s Land, possibly being amazed by what they saw and indeed seeing them through new eyes.

When I entered this exhibition the other evening I was unprepared for my own reaction. I was astonished and delighted by the drawings and paintings I was looking at. (In fact I was looking through new eyes!).

They were so utterly fresh; the vividness of the colours and the clarity of line and form.

I noticed the lovely paper and velum the works were on. (How did they bring so many sheets of paper with them on the ship and keep them fresh and dry?). The artists’ mediums, the paint boxes and the pencils; imagine the sharpness of the pencils to be able to create such fine and detailed work!

Along with all the artists’ medium, many quires of white wove paper were stored on board. (A quire is I believe a bundle of 24 sheets of paper of the same size).

What powers of observation these artists must have had, to be able to look with such obvious interest and with such new eyes and create such exquisite and detailed and often tiny and delicate drawings and paintings of the subjects.

You will possibly know the story of the artists, Charles-Alexander Lesueur and Nicolas -Martin Petit. They were 22 years old when they signed up to join the exciting and wonderfully promising voyage commanded by Nicolas Baudin.

Two ships the Géographe and the Naturaliste were being outfitted at Le Havre as research ships to sail to southern waters on a scientific voyage of discovery.

Lesueur and Petit did not join as artists; although both had experience. Lesueur was naturally observant and from a young age had collected and drawn from nature, with no formal training. Petit had studied at David’s studio at the Louvre.

They both signed up as assistant gunners, but were quite quickly noticed by Baudin, who assigned them to work as artists on his personal diary.

As fate would have it, and thus created part of this story, the three eminent assigned artists, along with 7 scientists left the voyage for various reasons in Mauritius, then the Ile de France.

They had disputes with Baudin and at least one of the artists stayed in Mauritius and had great influence years later when the final formal commemorative atlas of the voyage was prepared and printed back in France.

However back in 1801, Lesueur and Petit became the official artists to work alongside the scientist and record all the specimens taken back France, where they were to be used for engravings for the production of the wonderful books and documents as records of the voyages.

Many of the works are indeed the sketches and works drawn quickly with as much detail as possible to be the great resource for this publication.

Lesueur worked closely with the young zoologist François Peron and Petit concentrated on drawing the Aborigines; a task spelled out very concisely by Cuvier, the then Director of the Museum of Natural History in France.

This was to record very carefully the reality of the indigenous people and not to be distracted by clothes or body decoration but concentrate on the physical attributes only. At about this time of the Enlightenment, a great interest was being shown in finding out as much as possible and classifying the physical aspects of different races.

From my perspective as an art gallery guide I would like to talk about a few of the works and look at the artists’ techniques and context of the subjects.

It is a bit difficult to move us all around to look the each one so I will try hard to describe them and then hopefully you will look closely at them and maybe even say WOW!

As you walk into to the exhibition you will see the sea star group of drawings.

They are done with watercolour, wash and pencil on paper.

The drawing is comprised of three sea-stars arranged on a large piece of paper.

The composition really is startling in its apparent simplicity, but as you look more closely the detail is exquisite.

The colour of this little starfish, the scientific name of which is Tegulaster sp., is various shades of red or orange.

Lesueur has drawn these in pencil and then used watercolor to create the liveliness of these invertebrates, which are still lively after about 214 years.

It is possible that he drew these straight from life; they live on the sea beds and on the scientific excursions with Peron, nets would drag the sea bottom, bringing all sorts of sea creatures onto the boat where Lesueur would be able to draw them. Otherwise, they would be preserved in alcohol and would lose the freshness and the colour.

A good example of this is the elephant fish. The scientific name for this is Antarctic chimaera. It has an elongated fleshy snout used to probe the sea bottom for food.

There is a preserved specimen nearby which is a contrast to the drawn and painted work on blue tinted paper. The fish seems suspended as though still in the water; the eye is bright and the colours fresh, loosely painted in watercolour wash. If you look closely you can see creases in the paper as though it has been folded at some stage.

Many birds were observed during the voyage and into the protected waters of the mouth of the Huon River went Peron and Lesueur in a boat, noticing the trees growing closely together; in amongst them such bright birds were seen flying about in the branches.

The green rosella, or Tasmanian rosella, was drawn and painted in vivid colours by Lesueur. This may have been one of the birds shot down for observation, as the colours are so bright and the detail so carefully drawn. It is on blue tinted paper.

An interesting aside about the blue tinted paper is that only a few years later Turner  usied blue tinted paper a lot during his travels. Apparently the shade of the paper allows the artist to be more adventurous than is possible with white paper.

On the wall behind me you will have seen a number of portraits of indigenous people. These are all done by Petit, remembering Cuvier’s guidelines that ornaments, clothing, and scars are to be eliminated so the physical features could be clearly seen. This satisfied the demands of the expedition and Cuvier’s direction.

But Petit certainly painted these and let the engraver do the retouching later on in France. On one portrait he has written instructions for the engraver.

So we certainly see real people. Some of these are of Aboriginal people they encountered on Bruny Island, where they were able to have a reasonable rapport and thus be able to draw them. Some of the other unnamed portraits seem rather like caricatures.

However, there is one of a man named Paraberi done in watercolour, gouache, black ink and pencil on blue tinted paper. Here Petit certainly painted the cicatrices, the symbolic scars, and the piercing of his ear and his distinct facial features. You will notice dark patches, as was a custom, to crush charcoal and rub it on the forehead and cheeks as decoration.

Another portrait is of a young woman and her baby. She also has a name, Arra Maida, and is naked except for the kangaroo skin she is carrying her baby in. She is drawn with black pencil and he has drawn her closely cropped hair and wide nose. Peron noted that her eyes were very expressive and Petit has captured this so her expression seems interested and thoughtful.

Another portrait shows a young man from Maria Island wearing a single strand choker-style shell necklace.

This and another drawing by Lesueur of a shell necklace is the earliest representation of Tasmanian shell necklaces.

In a case next to this is a modern necklace which is virtually identical; a verification of the ongoing culture of the Tasmanian Aborigines.

On the back wall you will see a small drawing titled Shell necklace and a detail of the snail used for their shells. He must have used a very sharp pencil to have drawn this in such fine and beautiful detail. The single shell, a king maireener shell, is about real size  while the threaded shells are less than half size and form a circle around the single shell.

On this same wall are a series of drawings by Lesueur depicting wind shelters. These he may have used as a device for setting a scene for showing the Aboriginal people and their culture.

One in particular has the bark wind shelter used by people on the east coast of Tasmania. A man with a long spear is standing and a woman seems to be tending a fire.

A xanthorrhoea, or grass tree, is drawn at the left hand side.  The detail in this tiny pencil drawing is remarkable.

And, don’t forget, the instructions from France required all these details.

Landscapes drawn from onboard ship show the coastline and there is one which shows Eddystone Point and de Witt Island, which is a profile sketch using brown and black ink and pencil on paper and may have been done by Petit or Lesueur working closely together.

Another immediate landscape a pencil sketch called The scientists’ camp at King Island.

You can almost imagine Lesueur standing in the shallows sketching the scene quickly. It shows two French tents further along the beach from a pulled-up small boat.

The very gestural pencil lines shows the reflections and movement of the water and has a great feeling of the moment.

This is almost an illustration of a story, which was written next to this work and is worth reading.

Finally I must mention the animals. In particular Lesueur’s small finished painting of the platypus. This is done with watercolour on vellum. (Vellum is made from calfskin and has a very fine surface). This would have been done from sketches back in France.

He has painted the platypus with rather strange bills; this is possibly because the bills would have been less plump on the preserved platypus he would have drawn from.. You will see this when looking at the preserved one in the display next to the painting.

Lesueur sketched the wombats with such delight and was so obviously intrigued by them. In the exhibition catalogue there is an essay written showing how the sketches transformed into the engravings.

An interesting point is that the works represent changes in philosophical and aesthetic attitudes, from the first sketches to the final pictures shown to the public years later.

I think it is so exciting to be given the opportunity to see the original and spontaneous but accurate drawings of Lesueur and Petit.

They took back over 1500 drawings to France and only 42 of them were transformed into prints and shown to the public in the form of the wonderful published accounts of the expedition.

Lesueur and Petit kept all their work, as they needed to refer to them and prepare them for the engravers to transfer them to the copper plates for printing the official account of the voyage.

By wonderful chance and luck these finally ended up with their families who later returned them as a whole body to the Museum in Le Havre.

 

Annie Robinson, QVMAG Guide

Ambitious project provides world-wide access to QVMAG collection

The Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (QVMAG) seeks to maximise public access to its collections through research, exhibitions and publications. Now the Visual Arts Department has taken an exciting leap into the digital world, going live today with an online portal of collection information, Paintings from the Collection.

The project consists of high resolution photographs and information for 684 oil paintings from the collection. Each photograph is accompanied by information including the artist, title, date, measurements and media of the work, and how the work was acquired. There is also a simple subject search function.

This will make information about our paintings accessible in a way we could not have imagined even a few years ago. Technological advances are so rapid and are impacting on almost all aspects of our lives. These impacts are also being felt by curators, whose responsibility it is not only to research and record information about the collections they care for, but also to make this information available to as broad an audience as possible.

This is the first stage in an ambitious project to ensure the collection is truly accessible to a world-wide audience. Over time, we intend to make it possible to be able to electronically access our entire collection of works of art.

We have commenced with the oil paintings. This collection focuses on Australian art, from colonial through to contemporary art, with a particular focus on the Tasmanian colonial period. There is also a small collection of European paintings. Over half the paintings have come into the collection as gifts or bequests. We intend to continue to make available information about our art collection into the future, by adding images and information on our works on paper, sculpture and decorative arts collections.

We will endeavour to continue adding to and enhancing this site by uploading additional images of oil paintings when they become available. It has not been possible to photograph every painting in the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery’s collection. Some paintings, for example, have been unable to be photographed as they are awaiting conservation treatment.

It is impossible to imagine how this digitised information about our collections will be used, both by the QVMAG and our audiences, in the future. However the important first step has been taken. It will be fascinating to see how the public responds to this enhanced access.

The project is a collaboration between curators Yvonne Adkins and Bridget Arkless; Mark Gordon IT coordinator; and Renee Singline, graphic designer. The project has been fully funded by the Gordon Darling Foundation.

Bridget Arkless, Curator, 20th Century Australian Art

Online database
http://fmpweb.qvmag.tas.gov.au/fmi/webd#QVMAGweb

1905_fp_0417_glover_muster

Above  John Glover, The last muster of the Aborigines at Risdon, 1836, oil on canvas. Gift of Mrs T Baker, 1905.

Header image Thomas William Roberts, Ulverstone Beach, 1931, oil on canvas on composition board. Purchased with funds from the Launceston Museum and Art Gallery Foundation, 2008 (detail).

Gordon Darling logo

 

Domestic Goddess – A Tasmanian Icon

The Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (QVMAG) seeks to maximise public access to its collections through research, exhibitions and publications. Now the Visual Arts Department has taken an exciting leap into the digital world, going live today with an online portal of collection information, Paintings from the Collection.

The project consists of high resolution photographs and information for 684 oil paintings from the collection. Each photograph is accompanied by information including the artist, title, date, measurements and media of the work, and how the work was acquired. There is also a simple subject search function.

This will make information about our paintings accessible in a way we could not have imagined even a few years ago. Technological advances are so rapid and are impacting on almost all aspects of our lives. These impacts are also being felt by curators, whose responsibility it is not only to research and record information about the collections they care for, but also to make this information available to as broad an audience as possible.

This is the first stage in an ambitious project to ensure the collection is truly accessible to a world-wide audience. Over time, we intend to make it possible to be able to electronically access our entire collection of works of art.

We have commenced with the oil paintings. This collection focuses on Australian art, from colonial through to contemporary art, with a particular focus on the Tasmanian colonial period. There is also a small collection of European paintings. Over half the paintings have come into the collection as gifts or bequests. We intend to continue to make available information about our art collection into the future, by adding images and information on our works on paper, sculpture and decorative arts collections.

We will endeavour to continue adding to and enhancing this site by uploading additional images of oil paintings when they become available. It has not been possible to photograph every painting in the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery’s collection. Some paintings, for example, have been unable to be photographed as they are awaiting conservation treatment.

It is impossible to imagine how this digitised information about our collections will be used, both by the QVMAG and our audiences, in the future. However the important first step has been taken. It will be fascinating to see how the public responds to this enhanced access.

The project is a collaboration between curators Yvonne Adkins and Bridget Arkless; Mark Gordon IT coordinator; and Renee Singline, graphic designer. The project has been fully funded by the Gordon Darling Foundation.

Bridget Arkless, Curator, 20th Century Australian Art

Online database
http://fmpweb.qvmag.tas.gov.au/fmi/webd#QVMAGweb

1905_fp_0417_glover_muster

Above  John Glover, The last muster of the Aborigines at Risdon, 1836, oil on canvas. Gift of Mrs T Baker, 1905.

Header image Thomas William Roberts, Ulverstone Beach, 1931, oil on canvas on composition board. Purchased with funds from the Launceston Museum and Art Gallery Foundation, 2008 (detail).

Gordon Darling logo

 

Welcome to Our New Blog

I am really pleased that we are able to now include a blog page as part of our growing social media output. It is funny how words come into common use that once would have seemed absurd. I am not sure who came up with blog but as the use of social media stretches the boundary of good grammar such as the almost completely indecipherable new text language, blog somehow seems to have quickly become part of the accepted expanding lexicon.

I decided I had better look up the Australia-Oxford Dictionary for a definition just in case I didn’t know what a blog was. It is a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style. That is the noun, the verb seems almost more fun, blogs, blogging and blogged!

QVMAG will now create and maintain a blog page and regularly post articles. Our blog posts will provide information on our collection, research, public programs and other services. QVMAG staff will provide many of the posts assisted by our Honorary Research Associates and other specialists.

I am constantly surprised by the amount of work that happens across QVMAG. I shouldn’t be as I know my staff work hard. It is more the diversity of what they do and how fascinating their work seems. I am lucky as I come across some of it by simply being here but for many others what happens here remains a mystery. That is where our blog page will really come into its own. Under our three primary disciplines of science, history and visual arts there is so much happening.

The blogs offer us the opportunity to tell you more about what we do, what are some of our interesting research findings or what are we thinking. In the past this information would largely stay within the organisation, often within the staff member. But now we have the chance to share what we are doing in an informal way. As with the definition it enables us to have a conversation with people who are interested in us. Hopefully through our blog posts we will reach out to even more people. After all social media is simply that ‘social’. It is about opening a dialogue. We want to build an understanding of what QVMAG is and talk about the important work we do within the community.

I hope you enjoy finding out more about QVMAG and the many fascinating things that occur around us. Visitors to the blog can sign up for email notifications of new posts any time and we are always interested in getting your feedback.

Well I am now blogged!

Richard Mulvaney, Director

IQ Lecture Series – The use of art in communicating wider ecologies: The Marathon Project

 

(Presenter’s note: this is a summary, rather than a transcript, so some linking ideas may not be fully enunciated. Not all images are included: main points are summarised in the text. Full references are given to images not reproduced. Links are given to websites/key texts relating to other projects. Texts referred to directly or indirectly in the talk are listed at the end of the text.)

 

 

As many, if not all of you, will know, I am one of a group of Tasmanian artists, writers, ecologists and researchers privileged enough to be exploring and communicating the diversity of the grazing property, Marathon, at Deddington. This is part of a three-year program conceived by the property owners, Andrew and Diana Cameron in 2014, and now in its third and final year.

The landscape of Marathon has evolved over millennia, in the Anthropocene through Indigenous husbandry, colonialist enterprise, changing farming practices and, recently, a formal conservation program and the impact of climate change.  Finding a suitable language to express these changes –rather than simply the issues – is certainly a challenge and one still often left to historians and theorists. This immediately puts everything that is an indicator of change in the past, yet we know that change is continuous and should be thought of in terms of the future.

The pace and pattern of change over any landscape is varied across each corner of its ecosystem. For an artist, slow change is difficult to image without some sort of evidence; intermittent events hard to evaluate in terms of a larger ‘picture’. For scientists, communicating hard data that might picture that change to the broad population can be just as confronting. Both groups are specialists in ‘seeing’ but in ways bound to their fields of practice. Recently, there has been a move to create collaborations or to embed artists and scientists in specific landscapes to collect, interpret and communicate data in a people-friendly fashion. Data visualisation has become, in the words of Ian Milliss, ‘the portrait or topical landscape of our time’.

In this talk I am going to build up some data on Marathon, then speculate on some of the methods and outcomes of this move to a visual language for our time and place, as they might relate to the Marathon Project. What I won’t be doing is analysing or even necessarily identifying art. Nor will every Marathoner’s work to date get a guernsey – and if it was video or sound, I’m sorry: in a relatively short talk there is simply not enough time for an audience to take it in.

 

LOCATING MARATHONvisualising place data

Maps are important! The Tasmap topo-cadastral map Evandale 5239 shows the approach from Deddington along the Nile River; the bounds of Marathon, to the east Marathon Creek and Blackman’s Creek (and the Ripple) to the west; the Stringy Bark Tier (the private forest zone) running down to the river; the home site; and the relationship to the property immediately to the south of the river, Patterdale.

Look at the shape of the portion that includes the homestead, and that runs north, back from the river. Remember this block of land, as it comes up again, part of an accretion of place data but in a different time.

gloverpatterdale

From below Mr Glover’s garden at Patterdale, looking towards Marathon, beyond the treeline of the River Nile, 2017.

The relationship of Marathon to Patterdale is important in building a picture of Marathon at the point of European settlement, but also the extent of pre-European land management by the Aboriginal people who would here have had shelter in the higher areas, a ready supply of water and the plain itself, to be maintained by firestick practices. Somewhere between the two is camp site once made by Robinson on his ‘Friendly Mission’, moving between meetings with John Glover, the artist-owner of Patterdale and John Batman’s Kingston.

 

A USE FOR ART

A use for art: paintings and drawings as references to understand changes over time on specific tracts of land. The landscape painting is removed, at least temporarily from its aesthetic framing.

[ John Glover, Mills Plains, Ben Lomond, Ben Loder & Ben Nevis in the distance, 1836, oil on canvas, 76.2 x 152.5 cm., Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery]

From higher up the hill behind his house on Patterdale, Glover suggests the dark form of the Marathon hills as glimpsed behind the large tree. The density of tree coverage across Mills Plains is remarkably close to that shown on the 1983 topographic map.

[John Glover, 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]

At the river that forms the boundary between Patterdale and Marathon, Glover paints a keenly observed image of the closer landscape. The inclusion of the Aboriginal people is as ephemeral as the trace of Robinson’s encampment. This painting has been used in the 21st century as a reference to the natural growth along the river Nile in this period, and so is still current as an active mapping of continuing change.

rivernile

The River Nile below the house at Marathon: further east by some little way to that section shown in Glover’s painting, this image is to demonstrate that some of the attributes of the riverine area shown by Glover remain: the very characteristic rocks, the spread of the water and the patterning of the trees and shrubs along the riverbank.

A grant map of 1827 [Cornwall 12 – Nile River and various landholders, 1827; TAHO AF396/1/1363], shows a 500 acre grant to John Sevior. Initially, Sevior referred to his grant as ‘Nile River’ however it soon became Pigeon Plains as can be seen etched faintly on this map. (The grant becomes known as Marathon under the subsequent management of the Pyke family, from the 1830s).

The grant is easily identifiable as the lot defined in the top-cadastral map as the eastern section of Marathon running north from the river. The river boundary opposite Patterdale is remarkably close to that on the modern map, despite the erosive actions of the Nile’s many floods. To the west, no-one has yet claimed the heavily-wooded Stringy Bark Tier nor has the land that will become the property Lilyburne, to the east. The tree coverage shown is remarkably similar to that pictured by Glover and also in the 1983 topo-cadastral map. Particularly note what appears to be a home paddock, with buildings, which might include a cottage.

Around 1840, John Richardson Glover made a series of drawings of the small houses established on grants along the Nile, including one of Marathon. [John Richardson Glover, Marathon, c.1840 grey wash and ink on paper, 12 x 18 cm, LINC SD_ILS:72899] Behind a sapling fence and set amongst trees, a small cottage: central door, glazed windows to either side, a chimney of stone on the right, indicating a fireplace in the front room. Remember this, as it will come up again later …

 

A LANDSCAPE IN TIMES OF CLIMATE CHANGE

marathon.jpg

Marathon, March 2015, in drought.

marathonfloods

Floods at Marathon 2016 (Photograph: Diana Cameron).

While being able to build up comparatively stable points of reference on maps and even paintings, recurring anomalies in weather indicative of climate change might become new patterns in a gradual shift towards ecological destruction. It is worth noting here that humans are integral to any earth-related ecology, a philosophical shift that has led to the relatively recent identification of the Anthropocene and to the development of social and ecological adaptation strategies. The communication of landscape change is now an imperative. It is not enough just to watch.

So it was that The Marathon Project began, a move towards an understanding of a particular place that might generate meaning on a wider scale…

sheep

Image/text: Diana Cameron

 

The first camp took place over two days in March 2015. Participants walked the paddocks and along the lower ridges to the west of the campsite next to Marathon Creek. When not crossing the wider landscape, participants could be seen creeping up on things, listening, recording. Conversations took place between humans and between humans and the land itself. Talking and looking across disciplines. But still clinging to tools of trade!  Suddenly it all seemed bigger than some of us had imagined.

The second camp was held in August 2015: participants clustered at the shearing shed. There was snow on the mountains and a lot more talking was done.

Although participants followed their own developing ideas, this camp also threw up another layer to that landscape I attempted to put in place, with the map showing Sevior’s grant and the drawing of Marathon Cottage by JR Glover. Near the drive leading through the home paddock to the house, at the point between the dog kennels sheltered by the small forest of elms and the shearing shed, piles of bricks and stones indicated past construction. The idea that it was, potentially, a dwelling, was given currency by the presence of shards of domestic pottery – unearthed by the dogs or just revealed by the weather over many years.

pottery

After the discovery of the map of the Sevior grant and before the second camp, Diana Cameron had cleared the area and revealed what were clearly stone foundations of a building that could easily be understood as a cottage similar to that seen in the JR Glover drawing.

foundation

Here, the small brick entry step leads into a central hallway, with two rooms leading off the hall on either side. A fireplace (the lintel seen here has been moved) is evident to the right of the image. More scattered stones extend from the hall towards the woolshed, perhaps indicating the extension of the building suggested in JR Glover’s drawing.

So far, it had all been on site; so …

 

INTO THE GALLERY: Sawtooth ARI, Launceston, November 2015

 

sawtooth

Sawtooth ARI, November 2015 (part view of exhibition; works by Jess Dorloff, Gillian Marsden, Diana Cameron, Serena Rosevear, Deb Malor, Robert Boldkald, Robin Skinner, Ron Malor).

Serena Rosevear’s work, shown here in the centre of the space and below, consisted of a light box holding a photographic detail of black cracking clay and simple crockery, as fragile as such niceties in the face of the colonising process, made from that clay taken from Marathon.

rosevear

This piece, one of many products of a year of negotiation with the land, seemed to signal an idea that took the work of all Marathoners into what might be called another dimension.

 

THE IDEA OF THE 1:1 MAP

The 1:1 map is not my original idea: in fact, it has been around for a while. Those of you who have read Borges will know he called one up in his Collected Fictions, but it seems to have appeared some time before that, in the work of Lewis Carroll. Lately this has been much discussed and has been extended most usefully by Lucas Ihlein, from the writing of Stephen Wright. So to Carroll, in his, Sylvie and Bruno Concluded, completed in 1893: [The narrator and Mein Herr have a discussion – with imperial measurements]

‘There’s another thing we learned from your Nation’, said Mein Herr, ‘map-making. But we carried it much further than you. What do you consider the largest map that could be really useful?’ ‘About six inches to the mile.’ ‘Only six inches!’ exclaimed Mein Herr. ‘We very soon got to six yards to the mile. Then we tried a hundred yards to the mile. And then came the grandest idea of all! We actually made a map on the country, on the scale of a mile to the mile!’ ‘Have you used it much?’ I enquired. ‘It has never been spread out, yet,’ said Mein Herr: ‘the farmers objected: they said it would cover the whole country, and shut out the sunlight! So now we use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well.’

It is on the basis of Carroll’s text in particular that Wright comments, ‘One can scarcely have failed to notice that an increasing number of [arts] practices are now operating on the same scale as they are grappling with, both in time and space, refusing both a representational paradigm and a reduced scale regime…They use, as it were, the land as its own map’. [We will look at some of these arts practices shortly.]

So with the scale of things in mind, I move on to …

 

WIDER ECOLOGIES …

widerecologies

Marathon, April 2016: on Rockcliff Vale, the ridge dropping towards the Nile from Stringy Bark Tier, to the west of John Sevior’s grant (Photograph: Mel de Ruyter).

 

From this spot, it is possible to look to the village of Deddington, where Glover endowed a chapel and where he is buried: ‘John Glover/ artist’. Much further west, across the northern Midlands at Illawarra, is buried Tom Roberts, an artist with connections to the Nile and in veneration of Glover: ‘Tom Roberts/ artist’, on his headstone, facing towards Deddington.

cambailey

Marathon, April 2016: Andrew Cameron and Tanya Bailey planting the first sapling (Photograph: Mel de Ruyter).

 

Wider ecologies recognise the diversity with a place, the multiplicity of co-existing time frames, the potential inter-relationships between disciplines or skill sets. The sapling here was raised from seed collected from endemic species on Marathon by Tanya Bailey and Andrew Cameron. The first of many to be planted … (Read Tanya Bailey’s contribution to The Marathon Project website for the evocative story of restoration ecology on Marathon.)

 

IMPACT (Into the gallery, again)

sawtooth2.png

The Marathon Project at the Holographic Lounge, Sawtooth ARI, 19 May 2016.

 

With recognition of wider ecologies came another test of the cohesiveness of The Marathon Project outcomes: a video compilation curated by Amelia Rowe. Again, art was a frame that communicated those ecologies. We saw what we were seeing (even if understanding was not always complete).

But it had to get bigger. The land as its own map but also through…

 

THE FRAME OF ART

circleoftrees

THE CIRCLE OF TREES, 2016, denoted on property map by the larger green circle, top left.

 

From the air, a circle. On the ground, in response to the changing ecology, the need to increase tree cover, to replace victims of die-back, of earlier farming practices, of climate change.
circle.jpg

Remarkably difficult to photograph until they grow, here an arc of the circle can just be traced through the (hopefully) deer-proof cages. Planning, planting, protecting the trees, grown by Tanya Bailey from seeds collected on site. From the approach to the circle, up the slopes from the river, the trees will appear as layered, natural growth.

tanyaandrew

Tanya and Andrew plot the planting; Diana supervises the unloading of stakes and wire

 

Not long after this planting came the final Marathon event to date. Marathoners had increasingly been coming and going to the property individually and in smaller groups as they found ways of working with the land that allowed them to use art-based practices to drive and communicate the bigger ideas they could now see it held: ecologies of before and after; of close inspection and on a broader scale.

 

ENCOUNTER: November 2016

teashed

Outside the tea shed.

 

outsidewoolshed

Q&A session outside woolshed.

 

walkthrough

Guided walk through garden and home paddock, looking at tree change (Photograph: Monique Case).

 

These three components – the talks, tours, and opportunity to interact with others – opened up conversations, communicating ideas and actions to non-artists, to landowners, to scientists from related and unrelated disciplines, to ‘interested people’… to listen to what others had to say as they encountered both Marathon and The Marathon Project.

We will come back to ENCOUNTER, but to put it in a simple perspective, I want to introduce, in summary, some other projects that might be useful to follow up:

 

CONTEXTS FOR COMMUNICATION

The Stony Rises Project

ginilee

Installation by Gini Lee with assistance from Stephen Loo and Linda Marie Walker, Inveresk, Launceston, 2011

 

The project, running from 2008 to 2011, involved many academics, artists and curators, initially from Victoria and later also from South Australia. Its output was in publications, conferences, residencies and exhibitions. For the Marathon Project, this project’s interest lies firstly in its employment of Von Guerard’s images of Victoria’s Western District, in a manner similar to some uses of Glover’s artworks as a history. Secondly, it employed a process called Deep Mapping. Gini Lee, one of the participants, describes the process as ‘an assemblage of the topographies and topologies encountered in the making of a cross-landscape environment for places in the Stony Rises, Victoria…It is an experiment in the superpositions of gathered and invited material interleaved with a stratigraphy of text – as a kind of writing over writing over writing where points once separated in time are made adjacent – through the medium of the gridded mat.’ Stony Rises as an installation attempts to even out those incidents of change that act as historical blips or even climate anomalies yet make the future hard to picture, indeed it is attempting to [quote] ‘remember what it is that makes a place, a place’ (Unfortunately, with the demise of the NETS Victoria scheme, which had hosted the Stony Rises material, there is no central site for information on the project other than through the major publication and some conference papers published in proceedings.)

 

The Skullbone Experiment: a paradigm of art and nature

skullbone

Detail of installation, QVMAG, 2014 (Photograph: Catherine Wolfhagen).

 

The catalogue of the exhibition explains, ‘Eleven Australian artists immerse themselves in the ancient, remote landscape of Skullbone Plains on a wilderness residency hosted by the Tasmanian Land Conservancy in February 2013.’ The Skullbone Experiment was firstly a highly-curated immersion of artists into an environment that already carried a designation of value: this curation extended into the resultant exhibition. The title continues to suggest to me a negotiation between the artists and some Other that inflected on the usual aesthetic values attributed landscape. Some succeeded in building a dialogue but much remained as art only (rather than seeing the landscape through the frame of art), some of it very good indeed.

Stephen Wright, mentioned earlier, allows that any research project (that is, any form of project) can have a ‘self-understanding that is grounded in art’. ‘Grounded’ being the important word here. And it seems a particularly apt description for the next project…

 

Kandos School of Cultural Adaptation (KSCA)

The Kandos School of Cultural Adaptation began as a fiction yet has now developed into a series of residencies based around Kandos, a small town once dependent on a cement works on the western slopes of New South Wales. Think Railton but drier and more obviously degraded.

marloo

Participants on site at Stuart Andrews’ property, Marloo, Kandos, as part of The Hemp Initiative, 2016 (This image and that following reproduced courtesy of Lucas Ihlein).

 

kandos

This poster shows a set of, as I said, fictional projects presented at Cementa 13, the Kandos contemporary art festival (Cementa 17 is on in April 2017). One of these projects imagined Kandos as a world leader in climate science education, a working model of exemplary social and environmental ecology. Hence the school, in fact a residency program, for ‘turning out graduates who are the new leaders in the international mobilisation against climate change.’ Put simply, it was a model for alternative thought and action. Real-time projects have developed, significantly with forward-thinking farmers working on properties degraded by past practices. Although initially driven by art-framed thinking, a reaction to local experiences of impacted wider ecologies through processes such as climate change, the projects continue because of a willingness to develop conversations and drive rather than submit to, change.

 

Kur-ring-gai pH: Art + Science >> Project. Exhibition at Manly Art Gallery, NSW; Summer 2016-17.

robsondavisprasad

Detail of installation: Sarah Robson and Julia Davis (artists), Asheeta Prasad (scientist).

 

The project involved nine groups of artists paired with scientists from specialisations within the natural sciences. It was a combination of residencies and exhibition exploring connections over a 12-month immersion at the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, behind the Northern Beaches area of Sydney. Social ecologies were as important to this project as those of the natural world: the site had a long history of habitation, with the Aboriginal history recognised as part of the natural ecology in the same way as that of later colonisers. In the exhibition, data was visualised in many ways, not always through the frame of art but always complimentary to art at some level of scale or display. Each component relied on another; if you ‘got’ one, you would learn about its other.

(A catalogue was produced for the exhibition but the project is also supported by excellent on-line documentation: http://www.kuringgaieramboo.com.au/ Further links worth exploring include the project led by Lisa Roberts, Living Data, at the University of Technology, Sydney: http://www.livingdata.net.au/index.html)
The Kerry Lodge Project:

kerrylodge

Patrick Sutczak (artist); John Dent (surveyor/historian) on the dig at Kerry Lodge (Photograph: Karen Hall).

 

strata

Patrick’s work installed on site for Strata: tracing the past  Ten Days on the Island, 2017.

 

This has to be a 1:1 map! Archaeology and art brought together; two modes of envisioning data. Although as processes they could hardly be more different. Artists crossing the site in apparently random patterns, thinking as looking out, moving across, always listening. Archaeologists plotting, measuring, recording, reviewing, minutely and in blocks. Anthropocentric as much as Anthropocene, here they are all involved in the humanising of dry matter. Revealing something of an 1834 convict station (so contemporaneous with the early days of Marathon) beside Launceston’s southern outlet, the project is an archaeological collaboration between the University of Manchester and the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston. The art project, curated by Karen Hall, has involved a changing line-up of artists and writers working in a range of media.

(See http://kerrylodge.squarespace.com/ for a coverage of both the art and archaeology programs at Kerry Lodge.)

 

The Patterdale Project

The first Patterdale Project was for Ten Days on the Island, 2017, the visual arts program curated by Jane Deeth.

patterdale

Megan Walch’s evocation of Glover’s garden a shadowy presence on the restoration work to the front walls of Patterdale.

 

Patterdale, once the home of artist John Glover and sharing a River Nile boundary with Marathon, is being restored and conserved by owners, Carol and Rod Westmore, who are establishing a program of access to the house and landscape of Glover Country, with residencies and events, on what continues to be a working fine wool property.

Four artists worked with the house for this iteration, amid continuing massive change as restoration took place. In one sense a true 1:1 map, doubly interesting in that the landscape is already known through Glover’s artworks. Decision: what scale of map to create? Fascinating to see how Walch has created a shadow of Glover’s garden, known from a painting … but at a scale that must fit with the current landscape.

Towards a conclusion … and a return to Marathon for ENCOUNTER 2016.

 

 

THE PRESENT AND FUTURE OF THE MARATHON PROJECT

Inside the Marathon woolshed, an exhibition of work by the Marathoners that went hand-in-hand with conversation, Q & A, scones and tea, tours through the garden and a ute ride to the Circle of Trees was at the core of The Marathon Project ENCOUNTER.

1

2

Serena Rosevear’s further exploration of black cracking clay, backlit, breaking the pattern of the shed floor; Shirley Patton’s writing, made luminous on transparencies intervening between landscape and reader. Amelia Rowe’s taxidermy, an examination of frailty and the unpredictability of time made even more poignant as the shed acts as reminder of the working property that is Marathon.

3

4

5

Work engaging with sound, video integrating the luminosity of natural light playing around the shed.

6

7

Work that seems integral to fabric of the shed but which maps, through video, a traverse of the land outside; trees that live and die, are held captive or protected, by local or global human action.

8

9

Photographs of ENCOUNTER exhibition by Lia Liebersbach, lRon Malor, Deb Malor.

 

Reminders of endless labour, of convictism and of contemporary stewardship; of unspoken experience and the fractured stories given up by the archives and by the soil.

So integrated were many works in the shearing shed exhibition, presented without signage or explanation, that those not clearly marked by technology became vehicles for conversation as visitors moved through. Was that art? Where was the art? Were those things art or are they to do with the running of the shed? Markers of success, of making aware, of encouraging looking. Videos and sound revisited, now more meaningful. Eyes opened and ideas flowing. Seeing the familiar through the frame of art.

What does the Marathon Project mean in terms of understanding and communicating climate change and the related science? The idea that the property is its own map, that it is itself, is important here. Lucas Ihlein and Ian Millis have observed that representation, symbolised by the 1:1 map, but here in the traditional sense of ‘ a painting’ or similar artwork, is ‘troublesome’. The map can smother the land, causing ecological destruction. Using the land itself overcomes the tyranny of the map (an important consideration for a so-recently colonised landscape). Perhaps that is why so many of the Marathoners have captured sound, layered words, performed filmic dances with increasingly distracted images. More than a refusal of stasis, it is a recognition of changing and irregular temporal rhythms that must be grasped, at least fragmentarily, to proceed to the future. These aberrations (diurnal, seasonal) are already experienced by those who manage the land and who also realise any map, any data, must now be re-visioned before it can be brought to benefit the wider ecology. One use for art.

 

BRIEF BIBLIOGRAPHY

Borges, Jorge Luis, 1998, ‘On exactitude in science’, Jorge Luis Borges: collected fictions, trans. Andrew Hurley, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth.

Carroll, Lewis, 1893, Sylvie and Bruno completed, illustrated by Harry Furniss, e-published by Negative Space with Project Gutenberg

Curtis, David J, Nick Reid, Guy Ballard, 2012, ‘ Communicating ecology through art: what scientists think’, Ecology and society 17(2):3: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-04670-170203

Hansen, David, 2003, John Glover and the Colonial picturesque, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery/ Art Exhibitions Australia Ltd, Hobart

Ihlein, Lucas, 2016, ‘Interview: Lucas Ihlein. 1:1 scale art and the Yeomans Project in North Queensland’, Artlink 36:3, September, 38-45

Millis, Ian, 2017, ‘Editorial’, Artlink 37:1, March, 6-10

Muecke, Stephen, 1996, ‘Experimental history?’, Australian Humanities Review, July: http://www.australianhumanitiesreview.org/archive/Issue-July-1996/muecke.html

Szymborska, Wisława, 2016, ‘Map’ (2011), Map: collected and last poems, Mariner Books, Boston/ New York, 432-33

Whitelaw, Mitchell, 2017, ‘Australasian data practices: mining, scraping, mapping, hacking’, Artlink 37:1, March, 18-25

Wright, Stephen, 2013, ‘“Use the country itself, as its own map”: operating on the 1:1 scale’, northeastwestsouth, 23 October: http://northeastwestsouth.net

Wright, Stephen, 2013, ’Toward a lexicon of usership’: http://museumarteutil.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Toward-a-lexicon-of-usership.pdf

CONVERSING / IMMERSING / LOOKING / MAPPING / THINKING / SENSING / CREATING / LAYERING / TESTING / WAITING / WORKING / REVEALING / TALKING / CONNECTING / ACTING / GROWING / CHANGING / (The Marathon Project)

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

  • The “Marathoners” – Diana and Andrew Cameron, the owners of Marathon and the project instigators; Patrick Sutczak; Tanya Bailey; Serena Rosevear; Robin Skinner; Shirley Patton; Amelia Rowe; Robert Boldkald; Gillian Marsden; Ron Malor; Bron Fionnachd-Fein; Darryl Rogers; Jess Dorloff; Mel de Ruyter.
  • Sawtooth ARI.
  • NRM North; The Nile Catchment and Landcare Group Inc.; Landcare Tasmania; National Landcare Program.
  • Photographers: Diana Cameron; Mel de Ruyter; Lia Liebersbach; Monique Case; Serena Rosevear; Tanya Bailey. Where not credited, photographs by Ron Malor and Deb Malor.
  • For images, permissions and information on other projects: The Stony Rises Project (Gini Lee); The Skullbone Plains Experiment (Catherine Wolfhagen); The Kandos School of Cultural Adaptation (Lucas Ihlein); Ku-ring-gai pH (Lisa Roberts; Susan Milne and Eramboo Artist Environment; Katherine Roberts and Manly Art Gallery & Museum); The Kerry Lodge Project (Karen Hall); The Patterdale Project (Jane Deeth and Carol Westmore).
  • The Director and staff of QVMAG.

 

More information on The Marathon Project can be found on the website: http://themarathonproject.virb.com/home

A final exhibition centred on The Marathon Project will be held at the Academy of the Arts, University of Tasmania, Inveresk, in October 2017. Documentation of the project in a publication is planned, dependent on funding.

 

Dr Deborah Malor, Honorary Research Associate (Art & Design) Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery

April 2017

 

 

 

 

A Researcher’s Perspective: Baudin and the Beauty of Spiders

When I was first asked if I was prepared to do this talk, I hadn’t seen the artwork from the exhibition. I expected that there would be drawings of the insects and spiders that were encountered on the voyage to southern Australia. However, there are none in this exhibition, nor could I find any when searching through the images on the Web. So, I apologise that I will not be making direct reference to the Baudin’s artistic work in relation to the beauty of spiders.

Baudin’s expedition around 1802 was not the only one to carry scientists and artists on the journeys of discovery. As you can see around you, Charles-Alexandre Lesueur and Nicolas-Martin Petit created works of art, which are both stunningly beautiful and scientifically accurate.

Joseph Banks, who was the botanist on Captain Cook’s voyage of discovery in 1770, documented the plants that he found as they travelled up the east coast of Australia. He was accompanied for part of Cook’s voyage by the Scottish artist/draftsman, Sydney Parkinson, whose work appeared in Banks’ Florilegium.

Ferdinand Bauer was another artist who drew the flora and fauna collected on the first circumnavigation of Australia by Matthew Flinders. Jacques Arago was the artist on the explorations of Louis de Freycinet.

The drawings that these artists produced of the flora and fauna that they encountered are extraordinary in the quality and detail of the subjects that they drew and, again, as you can see around you, the creatures they represented are easily identifiable from their drawings and paintings.

The earliest records of spiders using the system of genus and species formalised by Carl Linnaeus, was by the Swedish arachnologist, Carl Clerck. In his 1757 work on the spiders of Sweden, artist Carl Bergquist produced amazingly detailed drawings of the Swedish spiders. One of the spiders on this page, the European House spider, is also a migrant to this country and can be found now in Tasmania.

As a researcher of the spiders here in Tasmania and at the Queen Victoria Museum, I am constantly attempting to identify the spiders that I find in the field and here in the Museum’s collection. My task is to determine the family, genus and then if possible, the species of the spiders. In many cases I have to rely on the drawings done by the early pioneers of arachnology. Some of these drawings are very good representations of the spiders and also show finer details of the spiders that are used to identify them. However, some of the images leave you wondering if the spider in the drawing actually matches the specimen in front of you.

Two German scientists who studied the spiders of Australia, Ludwig Koch and Eugen von Keyserling, produced a book called Die Arachniden Australiens (1871-1883). In it are the descriptions of hundreds of our spiders. It was illustrated by Keyserling, and remains the only illustration and description of many of the spiders up until this day. For example, I found a Whip spider the other day and it has not been re-described or photo illustrated in any form since Keyserling described it. Unfortunately, his drawing of it is just not clear enough to be sure. The reason that many of the spiders have not been updated in scientific journals is that there are just so many spiders and so few arachnologists to work on revising information, let alone describe all the new species being found.

As we progress into the 20th century, the camera became more widely used as a means of illustrating the scientific articles, such as in the descriptions of spiders by our local arachnologist, Vernon Victor Hickman. In 1927, in the Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania, Hickman describes a trapdoor spider. It is illustrated with a black and white photograph, but still accompanied by a drawing showing the details of the eyes. While the photograph gives a good representation of the shape of the spider, the quality is such that many of the finer details are not seen and one has to rely on the accompanying description to determine if the collected spider is the one illustrated.

With the advent of colour photography and better macro lenses, the illustrations used in spider books gave the readers a much better image of the spiders and enabled them to identify them not only by the shape, but also by the colour and patterns on their bodies.

As an amateur arachnologist, my aim is to be able to provide illustrations of as many as possible of our Tasmanian spiders so that anyone can find a spider and look it up on the web and get an identity for the spider based on its appearance. Often I will send images of spiders to arachnologists here in Australia and around the world and they are very reluctant to give me a positive ID down to species level from just a photograph. These scientists often have never seen a live specimen of the spiders that they have described and the preserved specimens usually have lost their colour and patterning due to the time spent in alcohol. (Can happen to us too)

One example of a scientist not giving a positive identification is with a pair of spiders found here in Tasmania. They look very similar and their patterning and colours are often interchangeable. However, I have discovered that the chelicerae or fangs on one is yellowish and the other is dark coloured. Also, one is smaller than the other, one stays on its web when approached and the other will drop to the ground. These details are what the public need when trying to find out what the spider is that they have just found in their back garden.

I became fascinated with spiders when very young, but it was not until I eventually bought a digital camera that I really started seeing the beauty in the creatures. As I got closer and closer to the spiders I discovered that the little brown creature that jumped off a leaf was actually a tiny gem. This 4mm long Peacock Jumping spider is too small to see its details just with the naked eye, but here we can marvel at the beauty of such a tiny creature.

The first spider I photographed with my first digital camera was an enamel-backed spider. It was sitting on the middle of its web, spread between two bushes in our garden. I couldn’t believe the beauty of this spider and I had no idea what it was. This was the beginning for me of my passion for finding and photographing spiders.

This was early days in the life of the internet and it took me quite a while to discover its identity. However, this started for me the process of researching the names of the spiders that I came across in my garden. I started scrounging through second hand bookshops to find copies of old spider books and gradually photos and identifications started to appear on the Web. Now, there is a World Spider Catalogue which lists all the known and identified spiders around the world. This makes life a lot easier when trying to find the name for a spider.  Still, however, often the only reference to a spider is from an arachnologist like Keyserling who drew a spider back in the mid 1800s.

I have photographed over 300 different spiders here in Tasmania. Each of them has a different character and beauty. Some are aggressive, some placid, some ugly and nasty, but others are just beautiful. Take the Redback for instance. How many of you have looked closely at one of these spiders? They are so elegant in their shiny black outfit with the brilliant red sash down their back. The orange Badge Huntsman has a stunning multi-coloured badge on the underside of its abdomen. There are bright green Orb-web spiders and Crab spiders that frequent our gardens. Spiny Jewel spiders, Orange Triangular spiders and many others frequent our countryside. It is worth just stopping and to have a look at these beautiful creatures.

The spiders of Tasmania come in all sizes and shapes. Our largest spiders are the big Cave spiders, the Huntsman and Water spiders. All of these are gentle giants. More aggressive are the Funnel web spiders and Trapdoors. These are magnificent creatures, but definitely not to be handled. Our population of Wolf spiders is large and diverse. Some of these can often be found in the garden helping to keep control of the insect pests while the Orb-web spiders create the beautiful webs that adorn our gardens like jewels on a dewy morning.

In the Mole Creek caves are minute spiders less than one millimetre long. Walking by, you may notice a tiny white dot suspended from a rock outcrop. On closer observation, these suspended dots are perfectly formed spiders, complete with eyes and hairy legs. I often marvel at the detail that exists when we can actually get close enough to our spiders and spend the time looking at the beauty that exists.

So, from this talk today, I hope you can appreciate the work that artists have done in the process of describing the creatures and plants that occur in Australia and also to take away an appreciation for the beauty of spiders that you come across. Don’t just stomp on the eight legged invader of your home, collect it in a glass, have a look at its beauty, then deposit it right down the back garden.

 

 

John Douglas, QVMAG Honorary Research Associate