Monthly Archives: July 2010

Uplifting Quotes for the Uninspired Historian #5

‘Being there’ for an historian is the feeling for the past that can only be matched by the hours, the days, the weeks, the months, the years I sit at the tables in the archives. It is the assurance that my extravagance with time here is rewarded with a sensitivity that comes in no other way. It is an overlaying of images one on the other. It is a realisation that knowledge of the past is cumulative and kaleidoscopic, extravagantly wasteful of my energy.

Greg Dening ‘Culture is talk. Living is story’  in Hsu-Ming Teo and Richard White Cultural History in Australia, Sydney, UNSW Press, 2003  p. 232

‘Cosmo Cosmolino’ by Helen Garner

1992, 221 p.

Helen Garner is thirteen years older than I am, and I feel as if I have been walking in her footsteps all my life.  Not following her lifestyle, mind you, but watching her with curiosity, as a life that I might have led had I been a little older and more confident. I felt as if I knew Dexter and Athena in The Children’s Bach– in fact, I’m sure I know where their house is!  When I was an undergraduate, still living at home with Mum and Dad, I’m sure that my fellow students were living a far more exciting Monkey Grip life than I was. Like Garner, I felt troubled by the challenge to feminism in The First Stone, and repelled and yet fascinated by Anu Singh in Joe Cinque’s Consolation.  Now that I’m growing older and facing the deaths of parents and friends, I see myself in The Spare Room.  But with Cosmo Cosmolino, published  in 1992 when Garner was fifty, my sense of identification breaks down.

The book contains three stories, tangentially linked.  Cosmo Cosmolino is the longest of the three, and although they are different characters, the lifestyle of its protagonists almost picks up, twenty years on from where the lifestyles of the people of  Monkey Grip left off.  The anarchic share-houses of the 70s are now just shells, containing wary, embittered middle-aged people, somewhat discomfited by the capitalist mores they found themselves adopting almost in spite of themselves, and younger drifters in a world of marginal working lives that is less tolerant of the artistic temperament than the 70s were.  These are people whose family relationships are just single strings rather than a densely woven fabric; there is a bleak loneliness about their situation and their outlook.  They are trying to find some meaning in their days, either through trying to recreate an idealized past of share-houses now gone, or through a fervid evangelical Christianity or a loopy new-age spirituality.

I’m not sure if my discomfort with this mushy angel-think is a reflection of my own cynicism, or whether it is because the book is nearly twenty years old.  Perhaps in the early 1990s, belief in angels was not so twee and flaky- after all, didn’t they market those bumper stickers “Magic Happens” back then? When were healing crystals and all that other dusty paraphernalia around?  There’s something pathetic about this book, and I suspect that it was not intended to be so.  I think that Garner is genuinely working through issues of spirituality and meaning.  It’s just not a quest that I find particularly compelling.

‘Bright Planet’ by Peter Mews

2005, 295 p.

I was browsing around my local library the other night and caught sight of “Bright Planet” and smiled.  I read it several years ago and loved it, and given that some of you may have been lured here by a search related to early Port Phillip, you might love it too.

I’m a difficult customer as far as historical fiction is concerned.  I feel smothered by too much research if  it means that the story is battling to escape, but on the other hand I am annoyed by small inaccuracies and a basic inauthenticity when twenty-first century ideas are put into nineteenth-century heads.  I first heard of this book during the brouhaha between Kate Grenville and Inga Clendinnen over Grenville’s book The Secret River, where it was held up as an example of a novelist using history well.

Bright Planet is the name of a ship- and it really is, too!  After reading this book, each time I came across Bright Planet in the shipping news column in Port Phillip newspapers, I’d have a little smile to myself.  It sails into Bareheep (one of the early names suggested for Melbourne, and strongly recognizable as Robyn Annear’s Bearbrass)  and the small town forms the backdrop for a succession of walk-on Port Phillip characters, Johnny Fawkner,  John Batman complete with his diseased nose and Mr Le Soeuf the Aboriginal protector.   There’s a slew of fictional characters as well, who could just be true, including Quiet Giles the botantist, who sails up what seems like the Yarra on a fictional expedition.  In best Voss-meets- Monty-Python tradition, there are a string of deaths through a whole range of misadventure, and it’s an irreverent romp through a young, bawdy town on the edge of the unknown.  It’s not true and it plays with the historical fiction genre.  It’s very carefully researched and, in its way is a critique of colonialism and imperial masculinity.  But don’t let that put you off: dammit-  it’s just downright good fun.

If I’ve piqued your interest, there’s a transcript of an interview with the author from the ABC’s Book Talk program.

‘The Judas Kiss’ Heidelberg Theatre Company

Once again, I wish that I’d seen this before the final performance so that I could encourage you to go.  Alas, too late (again) .

Written by David Hare, the two-act  play concerns Oscar Wilde and his lover Lord Alf Douglas. Act One is set in a London hotel, just prior to Wilde’s arrest where his friend Robert Ross is trying to persuade him to leave for the continent; the second act is in Naples two years later where Bosie decides to leave the impoverished and broken Wilde to return to London and his family.

I find it hard to see anyone else other than Stephen Fry playing Wilde- surely a part that he was born to play, and there’s a danger that playing such a flamboyant figure can descend to parody. But Chris Baldock, playing Wilde made the part his own, to the point at the end of the play where there was absolute silence as the audience collectively held its breath, then exhaled.  In a wonderful performance,  Baldock as Wilde was on the stage for almost the whole time, burbling forth a stream of dialogue,  then lapsing occasionally into a deep, black silence that in itself spoke volumes.  Tim Constantine as Lord Douglas captured his petulance well, but also his insecurity and jealousy.

There was a warning about nude scenes and cigarettes, and I must admit that the nude scenes were rather more than I expected! Must be a David Hare trademark- wasn’t ‘Our Nic’ nude in her performance of Hare’s The Blue Room?  It’s just as well that the theatre itself is so well heated.

I don’t always go to HTC productions, but I have been to a few. There’s something quite warming about a local theatre: looking around the audience and always spying someone that you know, the sherry before the performance, the squeaky orange seats that, in this case, fell silent too at the end of the play.  This was certainly the best performance I’ve seen there, and I only wish that I’d gone earlier in the season so that I could tell more people about it.

An Invitation to the Ball

And now for a bit of shameless advertising. My local historical society has been hard at work recently putting together an exhibition called “An Invitation to the Ball”.  The inspiration for the exhibition arose when the curators were transferring our textiles collection into new textile archive boxes.  Many of the items had been donated forty years ago when the Society was in its infancy, and surveyed as a whole, we realized that we had a collection of beautiful objects.

There is, of course, the much more extensive costume exhibition on at the NGV at the moment, but what I really love about this exhibition is that the displays are interwoven into a broader history of the Heidelberg/Ivanhoe area.  The focus is on women’s formal wear between 1850 and 1950, and there are many connections between formal occasions and the nearby Heidelberg Town Hall, the site of many mayoral occasions, debutante balls, concerts – to say nothing of regular Saturday night dances.

Because these are garments worn locally, we were able to trace through the original wearers and the occasions on which they were worn.  A search through our records and photographs found studio photographs and invitations for a debut ball held in the 1930s which, supplemented by an oral history memoir, are displayed beside the dress itself.  We were able to identify the lady mayoresses who wore particular gowns, and we found records of a number of formal occasions held in nearby facilities including “Sunday afternoons”, concerts and sporting festivals.

We were also able to locate, through our holdings of local newspapers,  advertisements for the web of haberdashers, drapers, outfitters and shoe shops in the local shopping centres- particularly the women dressmakers, all coyly named Miss or Mrs, and often formerly of Collins Street or other addresses.

The exhibition is open on Sundays 2-5 and will run until November 2010, so unlike most events that I write about here, it’s not closing soon!  Entry is $5.00 for adults, $2.00 for children under 16.  The Heidelberg Historical Society Museum is on the corner of Jika Street and Park Lane, Heidelberg. If you live in the northern suburbs you’ve probably driven past it dozens of times on the way to Burke Road. And who knows,  you may just even see me there!

Quote? Unquote?

I’m reading and very much enjoying a book by Jane Errington called The Lion, The Eagle and Upper Canada: a developing colonial ideology.  The book was awarded the Corey Prize in 1988, a prize for the best book on Canadian-US relations, jointly sponsored by the American Historical Association and the Canadian Historical Association.  Reviews that I have read about the book at time of publication have not been universally glowing, but I’m enjoying it nonetheless, oblivious as I am at this stage of the nuances of US-Canadian historiography and politics.

One thing I have noticed, though, is that she does not use block quotes but instead snips them up and integrates them into a paragraph. For example:

On 3 June 1814 Rev John Strachan preached a Thanksgiving Service to his congregation in York celebrating the deliverance of Great Britain from the devastating conflict in Europe. “Thankfully and devoutly” he declared, we “acknowledge the mercy and goodness of Almighty God; for protecting His Majesty and His dominions during the whole of this arduous contest; and for the signal and glorious victories obtained by its armies.” “Our joy is full,” he continued, “when we reflect that … Great Britain has been chiefly instrumental, through the blessings of God, in bringing about the happy changes which we now contemplate.” “Truly” she was “the preserver of the independence of Europe” and “the proclamation of peace,” he declared, would triumphantly bring her to “a new era of glory.” And though peace had yet to be won in North America, Strachan called upon Upper Canadians to “rejoice”. We have earned “the happiest time…now rising upon us,” he maintained. (p.97)

This quote is duly footnoted as “Strachan, A Sermon Preached at York on the third day of June, Being the Day Appointed for General Thanksgiving, 1814, 22-3, 38, 34.  It reads smoothly, and it’s only when you look closely that you notice the rather clunky double inverted commas.

Still, I find myself a little uneasy about it.  It reminds me of the technique of “The Week” magazine, to which I subscribe largely because of the generous discount for subscriptions.  As a way of distilling the essence of commentary (and perhaps to avoid copyright issues), the magazine likewise uses snippets of sentences in inverted commas, although sometimes I wonder why they choose such banal words to highlight in this way. For example, it summarizes Rex Jory’s column from “The Advertiser” in this way:

The perfect monopoly has struck again, says Rex Jory. The price of postage stamps “crept up” 5c to 60c last week, and what could we do about it? Nothing.  This is preposterous and outrageous. It’s bad enough that Australia Post can charge “pretty much what it likes” but it also “contemptuously” refuses to provide a weekend service.   etc etc.

Errington’s integration of snippets into a prose summary probably does justice to the sentiments expressed- possibly better than verbatim slabs would have done, but I feel wary- what if she’s misrepresenting what is said?  Although, short of slavishly writing out the whole document, how is any reader to know that paragraphs are not chosen selectively and skewed by ellipses and omissions?

I think, too, of the advice given in Ann McGrath and Ann Curthoy’s recent book How to Write History that People Want to Read that examiners and readers always skip over slab quotes anyway.  Do they? Do I?  I must admit that I think I do sometimes.  I think I’m looking for the analysis rather than the evidence.  Yet the fear of plagiarism or sloppiness prods me into backing myself up when I am writing, even though I don’t always read the evidence when somebody else backs themselves up the same way.  Errington’s technique weaves the analysis and evidence together in a way where it is less easy to skip.  I think I like it, but I’m still not sure.  A little writing challenge to meet, I’m sure.

‘Memoirs recorded at Geelong by Foster Fyans’ ed. Phillip L Brown

“What is the use of a book, ” thought Alice “without pictures and conversations?”  I’m with you, Alice.  I  certainly wasn’t expecting conversations in Foster Fyan’s memoirs, and I very much appreciated the maps and illustrations.

Foster Fyans is well known in Geelong as the first police magistrate there (1837-40), then he became Crown Land Commissioner in the district.  The area just out of Geelong known as Fyansford is named after him, and there’s a Fyans Street in Geelong itself.  After visiting Geelong a fortnight ago for the Robert Dowling exhibition I seem to be rather Geelong-conscious at the moment, and I’ve been reading Fyans’ memoirs for a paper that I’ll be giving much later in the year.

As his entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography suggests, there is not much known about his early life beyond that he was Irish and brought up by an uncle.  In these memoirs he springs from the page as a fully-formed army man, in charge of taking bringing a band of recruits to Portsmouth.  From the start he portrays army life full of masculine humour, eating and drinking, marching and high-jinks- almost a dead ringer for Lydia Bennett’s Mr Wickham and his mates.   His description of the Peninsular War likewise emphasizes life amongst his fellow soldiers, with more distress ascribed to the illness that swept through the camps rather than actual combat.  Then off to India for several years where again, life revolved around hunting and carousing and little mention of actual soldiering.  After a short time in Cape Colony (more parties and shooting), he arrived in Sydney where he spent a short, restless, lonely time before reporting to his regiment and joining his fellow soldiers at Parramatta.  Although he attended Government House, the jocular hail-fellow tone falters here, as the realities of convict settlement and official responsibilities become more apparent to him.  He is sent to the high-security  Norfolk Island where he eventually becomes Acting Commandant, and from there as commandant to Moreton Bay (now Brisbane) which was also a penal settlement at the time.  While  in Moreton Bay he oversaw the rescue of  Eliza Fraser.   His response to the convicts probably reflects the contradictions thrown up by the system- an uneasy wariness of violence that runs just below the surface co-existing with close day-to-day proximity with men not so different from oneself.

From there he was sent as Police Magistrate to Geelong, which is about fifty miles from Melbourne and rich pastoral land.  His memoirs become even quieter at this stage.  He spends quite a bit of time describing an expedition to the port settlement of  Portland, the first recognized land journey between the two settlements.  With only two mounted police and the surveyor Mr Smythe and no maps, they set off in what seemed to be atrocious weather, greeted each morning by the “flying jackass” (kookaburra), the “chanticleer of Australia”.   By 1840 he had been appointed Commissioner of Crown Lands, responsible for maintaining order among the squatters and investigating clashes between the settlers and the displaced aboriginal groups.  Here is a sad litany of violence,  where he mainly sides with the settlers in sympathy for what they perceive as needless stock loss. Like the settlers he is critical of the Aboriginal Protectors and the nearby mission station that he feels only attracts more aborigines to the area and imbues them with a misplaced sense of inviolability.

What started out as a military romp has become a nomadic police-like existence, accompanied mainly by his aboriginal “boy” Bon Jon (the purpose for my reading these memoirs).  It has become much quieter and more isolated.  Perhaps it’s the memoirist running out of puff too, because the memoirs stop abruptly in the bush in 1842.

The editor has written an introduction, where he describes the provenance of the manuscript and the various branches of the Fyans family tree, then gives a brief summary of the content of the memoirs.  I always enjoy hearing about how a manuscript comes to be published. The original, scrawled across five hundred foolscap pages had been typed up by Fyans’ great grand-son and it was donated by his descendants to the State Library of Victoria in 1962.   Although Fyans himself did not divide it into chapters, he did create sections by inserting a page with rough headings for the pages that follow. The  editor has created chapter headings and provided notes  at the end of each chapter.  These rather dour and punctilious annotations to the entries, which are painstaking in their detail, remind the reader of the fallibilities of memory and chronology, and the infelicities that arise when a raconteur is  telling a good story.

I think that it’s almost certain that anyone working exhaustively on an archive of memoirs, diaries or letters comes to build some sort of a relationship (albeit completely one-sided) with the author.  The editor, P. L. Brown (who also wrote the ADB entry) seems rather disenchanted by the many inconsistencies and errors he found

Fyan’s reminiscences had to be checked in order to assess their worth as historical material. This checking disclosed considerable and frequent divergence between actual and remembered events, and made it clear that the text, unless fully annotated, must be more entertaining than instructive. Hence the presentation of archives, both British and Australian, from the latter of which Fyans emerges as an energetic, conscientious public servant, rather let down by his rambling old self, who nevertheless conveys the authentic atmosphere of his historical period, and told few stories which lacked a germ of truth (p. xv)

The memoirs themselves ended abruptly, and the notes themselves end with the transcription of assorted letters and returns, and further details about wills and inheritances.  I found myself wishing that P.L. Brown had returned at this point to round out the picture somewhat and to help me, as reader, to bid farewell to Fyans.  After all, he’d been a rollicking companion for the first 100 pages or so, and despite infelicities and distortions in his retelling, he sure had a story to tell- Spain, India, Cape Colony and Australia- as did many of those peripatetic colonial civil servants.

‘Upper Canada: The Formative Years’ by Gerald M Craig

My research has moved onto another stage: Judge Willis’ Adventures in Upper Canada.  My Australian readers will no doubt agree with me that Canadian history does not figure highly in the Australian history curriculum and that I probably shouldn’t feel as embarrassed as I do by my ignorance about all things Canadian.

This book was suggested to me on a Canadian history blog as a good, if somewhat dated, starting point in researching Upper Canada.  Where’s Upper Canada? you may ask.  (I certainly did).  As one of my first surprises, it’s not particularly “Upper” at all- it’s the area of Southern Ontario, north of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. To my antipodean eye “Lower Canada” was actually closer to the north pole (and hence, upper)  than “Upper Canada” was.   It only officially existed until 1841, when Upper and Lower Canada were merged.

This, for me, was Revelation No 1- the river/lake eye view.  In his book, The Tyranny of Distance, Geoffrey Blainey emphasizes the importance of the lack of long inland waterways in Australia.  When you look at a map of Australia, there are none of those meandering rivers that weave , branching and converging across a continent.  Instead, apart from the Murray-Darling system,  there are stubby little twigs that start and break off, seemingly without reason.  No wonder explorers dragged their canoes with them into the Australian desert: their experience in other continents would have reassured them that there would be a river system somewhere, waiting to be discovered.  It also explains why early British settlement in Australia hugged the coast so tightly, and why they were keen to annex strategic harbours rather than the continent as a whole. (p. 122-3).  With a Canadian river-eye view, “Upper” refers to the reaches of the river, not the lines on a map, and “development” involves canals and river engineering works.

Revelation No 2 was the importance of borders, and here I remembered echoes of John Hirst’s first year Australian History subject where he emphasized the importance of Australia not having to share a border with any other colonial power.  I hadn’t considered before the significance in the time of the Napoleonic Wars of having French-Canadian neighbours, or the implications of “loyalists” coming across the border after the War of Independence, and the uneasiness that would evoke.  The book was a salutary reminder.

Revelation No 3 was the familiarity of policies across the empire. I was prepared for this, but it was still an “aha!” moment for me to see migration, land and church policies that I had thought of as “Australian” being applied in another context.  Our “national” history is not as unique as we might want to think it is- much of  it was part of what we would now deride as “one size fits all” empire-wide approach.  Policies that seem puzzling, like the insistence on restricting settlement around the Sydney area, make more sense in the face of Upper Canada’s experience when settlement was allowed to become too dispersed, a phenomenon exacerbated by the policy of reserving large tracts of land for clergy and Crown needs at a later date.  Of course “one size” didn’t fit all, and policies were subverted and ignored, but it’s interesting to observe the empire’s “corporate learning”, even if it only existed on paper.

Revelation No 4 was not strictly a revelation either: more a confirmation of the mobility of colonial careers.  For here we see George Arthur popping up as Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, having completed an earlier stint in Van Diemen’s Land- and there’s Charles Buller– I thought he was supposed to be “our” man in Whitehall!

The book was clearly written, with a strong chronological structure.  I found myself raising a sceptical eyebrow at the comment that unlike the United States, Upper Canada was never an “angry” Indian frontier- is that true?  The emphasis on the book was on politics and economics rather than social history, and I don’t think that there was a single woman in the whole book.  That’s fine: I’ve just started reading and plenty of time to rectify that.  There’s an almost laconic view of causality running through the narrative of this book: rebellions and ructions, when they occurred,  are portrayed as almost unnecessary, as structures would have collapsed under their own weight and events would have unspooled anyway.

The book, published in 1963,  was the first cab off the rank in the Canadian Centenary Series.  It concentrates on a defined geographical area within a clearly designated timespan.   The book ends optimistically, looking to the future and further progress.  The concept and premise of “Upper Canada” seems to be a phase in Canada’s history, and I sense that it has been left behind without regret or nostalgia in the march towards other things.

Uplifting Quotes for the Uninspired Historian #4

Not from an historian this time, but from Bertolt Brecht in Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic. I’m still thinking about this one.

Historicization (p. 140)

Historical incidents are unique, transitory incidents associated with particular periods.  The conduct of the persons involved in them is not fixed or ‘universally human’; it includes elements that have been or may be overtaken by the course of history, and is subject to criticism from the immediately following period’s point of view.  The conduct of those born before us is alienated from us by an incessant evolution.

and then on p. 90

In other words we must drop our habit of taking the different social structures of past periods, then stripping them of everything that makes them different; so that they all look more or less like our own, which then acquires from this process a certain air of having been there all along, in other words of permanence pure and simple.  Instead we must leave them their distinguishing marks and keep their impermanence always before our eyes, so that our own period can be seen to be impermanent too.

Robert Dowling, Tasmanian Son of Empire.

If you put your skates on, you’ll catch the Robert Dowling, Tasmanian Son of Empire exhibition at the Geelong Art Gallery. But be quick- it finishes on 11 July.  There’s a beautiful NGA site about the exhibition here–  go have a look, it’s a stunning site and almost as good as being there.

Robert Dowling was born in 1827 in Colchester in England, the son of a Baptist preacher.  In 1834 he arrived in Tasmania with his parents, who followed their older sons who had emigrated to the colonies some time earlier.  This Evangelical background is important because it influenced the subjects he painted  for the rest of his life.  He was apprenticed as a saddle-maker but did not follow his trade. Instead he set himself up as a painter of commissioned portraits.  He travelled between Hobart and Launceston painting portraits of many prominent figures and personal friends, including John West the Congregationalist minister and other leading Evangelicals.  In 1854 he shifted across to Port Phillip in the hope of capitalizing on the post-Gold Rush prosperity.  However he found it difficult to gain patronage in Melbourne, so he shifted down to Geelong closer to his extended family, and where he was commissioned to paint portraits by the wealthy Western District pastoralists.

In every exhibition, there’s usually one painting that you linger in front of, and often return to in order to scrutinize it more closely.  For me, it was this painting: Mrs Adolphus Sceales with Black Jimmie on Merrang Station

The catalogue described this as a ‘mourning painting’.  The exhibition catalogue (a beautifully presented book by John Jones) tells me that  Adlophus Sceales died in 1855, leaving a young widow Jane and two young daughters.  Mrs Sceales commissioned the work, and how I wish that I could eavesdrop on the conversation between subject and artist when the painting was being planned!  The riderless horses remind me of the military funeral tradition, but I assume that they were portrayed because he must have loved riding, perhaps with the two dogs shown.  I wonder whose decision it was to include Jimmie, and what his clothes and stance indicate about his role on the station- it looks very formal attire, befitting a manservant for an Englishman.  The emptiness of the picture is striking: the house is not shown, only the stables and it looks rather bleak, empty and cold. The daughters are completely absent.

This was one of several paintings that show Aboriginal people in the Western Districts, sometimes in family groupings, and at other times in close proximity to the settler families with whom they lived.

These are the children of his brother-in-law’s family and I’m struck by the easy pose of the little girl draped innocently ( but not entirely appropriately to our eyes today) over the young  aboriginal man.  What does it say about his role in the family? He’s obviously much older than the children- does he have a carer role?

In 1857 Dowling travelled to London to study art, sponsored by the good citizens of Tasmania. He stayed there for nearly thirty years, improving his technique to be sure, and acting almost as a conduit of empire.   He made copies of British paintings for an antipodean audience- a portrait of Queen Victoria, for example was sent back to the colonies as an  important official painting. He sent images of empire home, and he brought images of the colony to the metropole. On the other side of the world, he worked up the paintings of Van Diemen’s Land aborigines painted by the ex-convict artist Thomas Bock, who had possibly instructed Dowling in painting many years earlier.  Bock had died by this time, and Dowling copied Bock’s paintings and inserted them into a range of landscape settings in grand History Paintings.  He made multiple copies, with the same central figures in different groupings and with different backgrounds.

Click on the NGV website about the Dowling exhibition for a zoomable close-up and explanation of the painting.

And, true to form, I can find six degrees of separation (even fewer!) from Judge Willis and this painting.  The smiling figure on the right hand side is Tunnerminnerwait, also known as Cape Grim Jack, who was one of the Van Diemen’s Land blacks who accompanied Protector Robinson across Bass  Strait. He was sentenced to death by Judge Willis and executed in January 1842.  If you have access to academic journals at all, there’s an excellent essay by Leonie Stevens in the June 2010 Victorian Historical Journal called “The Phenomenal Coolness of Tunnerminnerwait” ( a rather phenomenally cool title for the article, too!)

In a world where a few snatched bars of “Kookaburra Sits on the Old Gum Tree” can lead to a lawsuit, we might raise our eyebrows at Dowling’s appropriation of Bock’s images in this way. Here’s Bock’s version of Tunnerminnerwait on the left, and Woureddy on the right. You’ll be able to easily locate them in Dowling’s picture above.

Dowling’s re-presentations of Bock’s images found their way to the Ethnological Society of Britain and the Royal Academy where they fed the interest in anthropology and primitive societies.  Although these paintings were created in London, using sketches from Bock’s originals, they eventually found their way back to Australia as part of the swirl of cultural artefacts throughout the Empire.

Dowling returned to Australia in 1884 and set up a studio in Melbourne.  He returned to England two years later with the intention of packing up and moving permanently back to the colonies, but died suddenly.  As Jones points out, it’s interesting to speculate how he would have responded artistically to the Australian Impressionists and their take on Australian landscapes.


Jones, John.  Robert Dowling, Tasmanian son of Empire, Canberra, National Gallery of Australia c 2010

Stevens, Leonie  “The Phenomenal Coolness of Tunnerminnerwait” Victorian Historical Journal, Vol 8, No 1 June 2010 pp.18-40.