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Australian Fern Pine of New South Wales. Early Australian botany c1799.

Australian Fern Pine of New South Wales. Early Australian botany c1799.

by Harrison Cluse & Co

Australian Macrozamia Cycad very rare little copperplate engraving with contemporary hand-colour from the Naturalist's Pocket Magazine; or, Compleat Cabinet of Curiosities and Beauties of Nature, containing elegant coloured prints of birds, fishes, flowers, insects, quadrupeds, shells, and other natural productions.." wight anonymously compiled books published in London between 1798 and 1802 by Harrison, Cluse & Co. No 78 Fleet Street. This engraving was the first Australian engraving in the series. The Fern Pine reportedly had “a very pleasing appearance; and add, considerably, to the picturesque scenery, which so charms the European traveler, in his rides through the enchanting woods of this delightful country”.

Most likely the engravings were based on paintings by the convict artist, Thomas Watling, much of whose work was sent to Britain. Watling made an immeasurable contribution to our knowledge of colonial days in Australia with his visual recording of views and early discoveries of nature in New South Wales.

Born in 1762, Watling was a talented artist from Scotland. His parents died when he was very young and he was brought up by a maiden aunt. His education was superior, including a thorough grounding in art. Eventually he formed his own art academy. After a brief period in Glasgow as a coach and chaise painter, Watling returned to Dumfries - where he was accused of forging guinea notes on the Bank of Scotland. He denied guilt, but rather that risking conviction and execution Watling requested transportation to Australia. On arrival, Watling was assigned to ardent naturalist, surgeon-general John White, who benefited greatly from Watling's artistic skill. When White left the colony at the end of 1794 it is thought that Watling was assigned to judge-advocate David Collins, as Collins's An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales used sketches by Watling. Both publications were published between 1798 and 1802.

Within a year of the enthusiastic and able artist, Governor John Hunter's arrival in the colony, he granted Watling a conditional pardon in 1796, and an absolute pardon the following year. Watling took his son and returned to Scotland - after spending a couple of years in Calcutta where he earned a precarious living as a miniature painter. In 1806 Watling was tried in Edinburgh for a series of forgeries, but was discharged with a verdict of "not proven". He and his son then moved to London but could not support themselves and Watling was afflicted with cancer. He applied to Hunter who was by then an admiral, and Watling also received some assistance from members of the Royal Academy. Watling died from cancer but it is unknown when or where.

This engraving has age-discolouration but is otherwise in good condition except for a small foxing spot towards the top of the page which measures 150 x 85mm (approximately 6 x 3 3/8 inches). The accompanying text is available. 

 

 

 

Stock Number: apAbHarr1Price: $330.00

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