This exhibition, selected from the Gallery’s extensive collection, celebrates the first encounters between white explorers, scientists and settlers with the animals of the Southern Continent and highlights the prevailing perceptions and depictions of native fauna of the period.
Indigenous Australians had at least 50,000 years to adapt to and familiarise themselves with the unique flora and fauna of this continent, but for Europeans the process took place over little more than 250 years. Australian plants and animals were often shockingly different to anything they had seen before — swans were not meant to be black, and mammals were not supposed to lay eggs. Many of these ‘new’ animals were also simply terrifying.
However, there was also an exotic and intriguing beauty to be encountered, documented and published. The European settlement of Australia occurred at exactly the time when advances in science meant that people had both the means to describe these new discoveries, and the inspiration and interest to do so.
An Art Gallery of Ballarat exhibition