Artist Colony: Drawing Sydney’s Nature

AC_PelicanA landmark exhibition that brings together for the first time the largest and most comprehensive collection of original artwork from the First Fleet era – many never seen before – has opened at the State Library of NSW.

Artist Colony: Drawing Sydney’s Nature presents a lavish showcase of 100 rare and evocative natural history drawings from the first decade of Europeans in Sydney, featuring the State Library’s $7.1 million TAL & Dai-ichi Life collection, as well as original works from the Natural History Museum, London; National Library of Australia and Kerry Stokes Collection, Perth.

“New investigations by the Library on the 745 exquisite drawings of Australian birds, plants, animals and fish in the TAL & Dai-ichi Life collection has uncovered a rich back-story that questions our understanding of the first 12 years in the colony,” says Alex Byrne, NSW State Librarian & Chief Executive.

In preparation for the exhibition and her new book, the Library’s colonial art expert Louise Anemaat spent months trying to unravel the genealogy of drawings in the collection alongside local and international collections, and discovered that the colony was a far richer cultural community than was previously known.

“We are used to hearing stories of the floggings, hunger, isolation and the brutality of the time, and these are all true,” says Ms Anemaat.

“But, out of the harshness and homesickness emerged an ‘artist colony’ where Europeans, in awe of Australia’s natural world, eagerly sought to draw the astonishing variety of new and exotic species they encountered.”

“These bold and striking first impressions of Australia’s fauna and flora were like little ambassadors for Australia but with a strong personal message from the heart, almost like acry not to be forgotten or abandoned.”

Visitors to Artist Colony will have the rare opportunity to view these original artworks that were copied and shared, and inspired a wave of drawing and collecting throughout Britain!

Artist Colony: Drawing Sydney’s Nature
State Library of New South Wales, Macquarie Street, Sydney
Exhibition continues to 11 May 2014
Free entry

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Australian pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus), Artist unknown, 1790s, watercolour PXD 1098 vol. 4 TAL & Dai-ichi Life Derby Collection, State Library of NSW