BIRTH OF A COLONY
the man waiting with a bigger axe will finish the job. Nearby a boy prepares glasses and no doubt warm champagne for a toast.
Not everyone was as sanguine about the future of the new colony at the time. There is an 1830 print by William Heath titled Flourishing state of the Swan River thing in which we see a poor family, apparently famished on a lonely beach, near a humpy with a sign declaring it to be the Swan River Tavern.
Most early works, though, emphasise the beauty and potential of the new land. Many evoke the vast empty space and thus possibilities for development. Views of the city of Perth regularly look down from Mount Eliza to the curve of the bay and the rows of houses appearing behind it. This is what we see, for example, in Horace Samson’s view of Perth from Mount Eliza (1852): the original watercolour has the bay extending far into the distance; the lithograph of the same year adds a framing tree for the sake of a more satisfactory composition.
There is a similar view, a few years earlier, in George Nash’s An extensive view of Perth, Western Australia, with a group of natives in the foreground (1846), where the presence of the Aborigines in the front of the picture is contrasted with the orderly rows of market gardens and orchards below and the city beyond. The natives are bemused spectators of the rapid transformation of their familiar landscape by the British settlers.
A number of works look more closely at the new gardens and farms. Henry Willey Reveley has a detailed view of My house and garden in Western Australia (1833), in which his modest cottage stands next to its abundant kitchen garden; on the left is the first water mill built in the colony, an important achievement and evidently a source of pride to the artist-settler.
Spaciousness is evoked in these works, but so is the increasing prosperity of the nascent city. A number of pictures show the rows of new houses that line the streets, notably a pair of hand-coloured prints by Charles Dirk Wittenoom, both published in 1839, only a decade after the foundation of the colony, one showing a street in Perth and the other one in Fremantle.
The much larger watercolour study of the first scene hangs next to the prints, so once again we can compare what the artist saw with the slightly modified version for the print. The things that most interest him, of course, are the wide street and the handsome houses as well as the picket fences with their implications of orderly life, respect of property and privacy.
Many other early pictures of colonial cities — prints of Sydney notably — populate their views with carefully chosen figures to suggest the comfort, prosperity and security of the new