February 02, 2009

More art of the first fleet



®   May 1787 – departure from Portsmouth. 11 ships under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip, including the export vessel HMS Hyaena holding 750 convicts.

®   Bound for Botany Bay.

®   HMS Sirius logbook: “At 4am fired gun and made the signal to weigh, weigh’d and made sail, in company with the hyaena frigate, supply armed tender, six transports and three store ships. At 9am fired gun and made the sign’l for the convoy to make more sail.”

®   June 1787 – Tenerife

®   August 1787 – Rio de Janeiro

®   October 1787 – Cape of Good Hope

®   January 1788 – Arrival at Botany Bay. Phillip sends a small part to Norfolk Island in March of that year.

®   Botany Bay – lack of water, unsafe for ships as open to the sea and the soil was poor for crop growing. Very difficult to make the area

®   Had been recommended by Captain James Cook in 1770 as a possible location for a settlement but it was nothing like what he’d described in reality.

®   Some tried to escape the colony and make a move to China but most died trying.

®   Total dependence on supplies until ships moved away, totally isolating the settlers.

®   Food and shelter was obviously vital to survival and the settlers were very confused as to how the indigenous Australians had been able to survive, considering they were not as advanced as to cultivate the soil or breed animals for food, but survived on hunting, gathering and fishing.

®   Donaldson, Seeing the First Australians, 1985: “The new invaders of the country examined the Aborigines with a gaze that was at once comparative and classifactory.”

®   This presentation will be focused on the images of the indigenous Australians made by the artists of the First Fleet, particularly those that consider the survival skills of the natives, which was obviously a very important subject to the colonists.


®   Many botanical images of the flora and fauna of Australia during colonisation. Important to show those at home and to log their progress. (Go through printout images).

®   We do have access to images of the indigenous Australians before the First Fleet.

®   Sydney Parkinson – draughtsman for Joseph Banks, during Cook’s voyage to the Pacific (1768-71). He made many drawings of Polynesians and Maoris, and a few Aborigines.

®   Two Australian Aborigines, 1770 (p. 23) – very rough sketch, possibly for his personal notes rather than scientific drawings due to their lack of detail. Pair of glasses is actually a representation of body point, including the cross on his chest.

®   Two Aboriginal Warriors, 1770 – this is an example of his scientific drawings, far more detailed and accurate. Much clearly markings.

®   FIRST FLEET: settlers were very wary of the native Australians; they appeared to be very elusive. Governor Phillip writes about fire in the mountains as a sign of Aborigine habitation – very elusive.

®   After the initial interest between the settlers and natives (as described by Inga Clendinnen), the two sides began to become hostile with each other with accounts of theft, assault and even murder. The initial friendship was very short lived.

o      e.g. George Barrington’s account in the 1790s of a group of inland Aborigines who attacked and robbed a group of colonists: “They instantly made off into the woods… and were consequently very little well known.”

®   Rumours started to circulate regarding theories as to how the indigenous people were surviving without agricultural technology such as land cultivation and livestock, which is as basic as survival got in Britain. The Sydney Gazette in 1804 described the spreading thought that they were surviving with cannibalism. It was not considered that the natives were just highly skilled, seeing as the settlers found it so difficult.

®   The Aborigines were totally dependant on fruit gathering and fishing. Also, the inland Aborigines hunted animals such as kangaroos. Settlers began to see a difference between the aborigines and made observations of techniques etc.

®   IMPORTANT: were starving themselves.

®   George Barrington (1810): noticed that those who lived in the woods had longer limbs than those living on the coasts, possibly because they needed to climb trees to collect honey and capture possums.

®   John Heaviside Clark, Climbing Trees, 1813 (p. 59) – aborigines hunting possums in trees, cannot see any evidence of elongated limbs here but there is an indication of a method for tree climbing in the foot holes bored into the tree. Also botanical observations in the vegetation and an inclusion of flying squirrels above.

®   HUNTING – very interesting area of observation as the British settlers saw it as more of a pastime rather than as means of survival. Military officers were encouraged to join hunts back home and it was very much a pastime of the upper classes.

®   Aborigines – seen that they too were enjoying the ‘thrill of the chase’. It could have been seen as some form of mutual activity, as could fishing which was also a British pastime, but important for native survival.

®   Not hunting as they knew it – no guns, no rules for game, no dignified uniform. Free-for-all with spears.

®   John Heaviside Clark, Throwing the Spear, 1813 (p. 60) – Aborigines spearing birds (possibly parrots being depicted here but they reflect the stylised form of European game birds, such as pheasants). Birds are being speared through the wing just as sportsmen shot game birds in flight – analogy of game shooting made here.

®   John Heaviside Clark, Hunting the Kangaroo, 1813 (p. 61) – animals have been driven to the water by hunters who are spearing them before they run for cover, perhaps making allusions to fox hunting AND kangaroos are shaped like foxes (long muzzles, pointed ears, sharp teeth, body shapes are more like upright foxes than kangaroos).

®   These pictures by Clark were made in 1813 – the same year as the first crossing of the Blue Mountains, when European visions of the possibilities of Australia were radically altered. The settlers could now make full use of the land, rather than the area they were isolated in on the shore.

®   1800s onwards: Birth of the term ‘bushman’ – ‘bush’ possibly derived from the Dutch word, ‘bosch’; eighteenth-century term used to refer to country covered in natural forest which was uncleared.

®   The bushmen utilised the skills that were developed by the Aborigines, which were studied by the artists of the First Fleet in order to adapt to the harsh environment, but they also used them to make economic return (were not controlled by bureaucracy), e.g. sheep shearing, bullock carts etc.

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