May 11, talk – the Art of Nature
In this talk I discussed artists as diverse as John Everett Millais, Jacob Epstein, Papunya Tula Artists and Damien Hirst.
Eugene von Guerard
His paintings are considered so accurate that this work has been used in the re-vegetation of the area. He was born in Vienna, spent time in Rome, trained in Germany, went to England then came here to seek his fortune digging gold – then in the 1850s travelled to wlld parts of Australia and brought some of that melancholy of German Romanticism.
The next generation of painters, the Australians like Roberts, Streeton, McCubbin, etc. were privileged as painting the national story and the earlier immigrant painters were ignored, and only re-evaluated in the 1960s.
This landscape could be an exemplar of Bill Gammage’s argument in his book, ‘The Biggest Estate on Earth’ – that Aboriginal cultures were not just well adapted to the Australian environment – but they created the environment. I used Bill in this talk to explain totemism in a brief discussion of Papunya art, but had no space to discuss his main thesis.
Bill was a guest here at the recent Readers and Writers Festival. He argues that Aboriginal methods of fire control protected them from major bushfire and at the same time created grasslands for hunting. He quotes many early European accounts of the lack of woodland which is not natural. He quotes Sydney Parkinson: “The country looked very pleasant and fertile . . . appeared like plantations in a gentleman’s park.”