Landscape Painting in Colonial Tasmania: a visual terra nullius?

Dr Gregory Lehman

The University of Melbourne


Considerable attention has been paid to the artist John Glover’s depiction of Tasmanian Aboriginal people, and his paintings have become emblematic of the colonial landscape of Van Diemen’s Land. However, Glover’s landscape paintings were made after removal of Aboriginal people from their homelands during the Black War that persisted in the colony from 1824 to 1831. To date there has been no recognition that prior to Glover’s work, Aborigines were almost completely absent from Tasmanian landscape painting or portraiture.

Greg will examine the work of artists who documented the colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land from 1808 to 1831, a record of colonial development that profoundly influences our understanding of Australian history and geography. He raises new questions about the unexplained absence of Aborigines in their VDL views at a time when Palawa were a regular presence in the lives of colonists, and an increasing source of conflict as they resisted British settlement.

Was exclusion from the visual record part of a deliberate effort to minimise the impact of the Black War on economic development? Was colonial art used to effectively bolster the idea of terra nullius?

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