14 Jul 2018

Colony: Australia 1770-1861

National Gallery of Victoria, NGV Australia

Reviewed by Ranger Thomas

They stand at attention - 34 shields made in aboriginal southeast Australia, beautifully carved and painted with unique designs. According to Cook's journal, when commanding the landing party at Botany Bay in 1770, he ordered a musket to be fired over an unwelcoming native. The ball flew by the Dharawal warrior, startling him for a moment. He replied by holding up his shield in earnest, as if it were a middle finger.

After walking past this honor guard of shields, the viewer comes upon a dark alcove with a Dutch ship's journal and Isaac Gilsemans' coastal profiles in ink of Tasmania, 1692. They are thrilling, an equivalent of the first views of the moons of Jupiter from the Voyager mission.

There follows the largest gathering of Australian colonial art and artifacts ever assembled. All predate the founding of the NGV in 1861. Leg irons, made by convicts for convicts, are particularly creepy, but the whole exhibition is a profound experience.

Exhibition Colony: Australia 1770-1861 link
Start date 15 Mar 2018
End date 15 Jul 2018
Presenter National Gallery of Victoria link
Venue NGV Australia, Melbourne Square, Melbourne, AUS map
Image Augustus Earle, Portrait of Bungaree, a native of New South Wales c. 1826, oil on canvas, 68.5 x 50.5 centimeters, Rex Nan Kivell Collection: National Library of Australia and National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, courtesy of the National Gallery of Victoria

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