Pub­lic works

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Visual Arts - Bron­wyn Wat­son

Fer­di­nand Bauer, Banksia coc­cinea from Il­lus­tra­tiones flo­rae No­vae Hol­lan­diae, 1813. Col­lec­tion Flin­ders Univer­sity Art Mu­seum. Ac­quired with the sup­port of the Univer­sity of the Third Age in com­mem­o­ra­tion of Flin­ders Univer­sity’s 50th an­niver­sary. On dis­play in ex­hi­bi­tion Truth and Beauty: The Aus­tralian botanical works of Fer­di­nand Bauer, Flin­ders Univer­sity City Gallery, State Li­brary of South Aus­tralia, Ade­laide, un­til Fe­bru­ary 5. In 1800 Bri­tain might have been at war but some­how the nat­u­ral­ist Joseph Banks man­aged to per­suade Earl Spencer, First Lord of the Ad­mi­ralty, to spare a ship for a sci­en­tific ex­pe­di­tion to the other side of the world.

Banks’s in­ten­tion was to cir­cum­nav­i­gate for the first time the coast of Aus­tralia and to study the plants and an­i­mals of the new colony. For him the ex­plo­ration was of ut­most im­por­tance. Al­though he was not go­ing, he re­fit­ted the ship to his ex­act spec­i­fi­ca­tions. A spe­cial cabin was in­tended for liv­ing plants to be brought back to the Kew Gar­dens; there was a mi­cro­scope on board and many books, in­clud­ing Banks’s copy of his En­deav­our Jour­nal from Cap­tain James Cook’s voy­age. He gave in­struc­tions that the sci­en­tists were to have suf­fi­cient time on land to com­plete their work.

HMS In­ves­ti­ga­tor was un­der the com­mand of Cap­tain Matthew Flin­ders, and there were six “sci­en­tific gen­tle­men” on board. One of these was Fer­di­nand Bauer, a nat­u­ral history il­lus­tra­tor recog­nised for his re­mark­able tal­ent for ac­cu­racy, which was partly due to a com­plex colour cod­ing sys­tem that he had de­vised; it en­abled him to make pre­lim­i­nary sketches and then later com­plete his il­lus­tra­tions with the ex­act tone and shad­ing.

Dur­ing the voy­age, he pro­duced in­tri­cately de­tailed sketches of more than 2000 plants and an­i­mals, in­clud­ing the first Euro­pean draw­ings of botanic spec­i­mens from South Aus­tralia. Some of these works that re­veal the im­por­tance of his legacy are on dis­play in the Ade­laide ex­hi­bi­tion Truth and Beauty: The Aus­tralian botanical works of Fer­di­nand Bauer.

Bauer cer­tainly had an in­ter­est­ing back­story. He was born in 1760 in Aus­tria. His fa­ther was the prince of Liecht­en­stein’s court painter, but by the age of one Bauer was or­phaned. He was Stip­ple en­graved on cop­per, hand­coloured, 1813. Pub­lished 1989 by Alecto His­tor­i­cal Edi­tions in as­so­ci­a­tion with the Bri­tish Mu­seum. 38.7cm x 25cm sent to live in a monastery where he first learned to record, in minia­ture, the plants in the gar­den. When he was about 20 he moved to Vi­enna to fur­ther his ex­per­tise. While there he was vis­ited by the renowned botanist John Sibthorp of Ox­ford Univer­sity, who was so im­pressed by Bauer’s work that he hired him as his nat­u­ral history painter for a trip to Greece. This led to Bauer pro­duc­ing more than 1000 coloured draw­ings for the book Flora Graeca.

Af­ter his trip on the In­ves­ti­ga­tor, Bauer re­turned to Eng­land in 1805 car­ry­ing with him 11 cases of draw­ings. Banks per­suaded the Ad­mi­ralty to pay Bauer to pub­lish his il­lus­tra­tions but he was such a per­fec­tion­ist that he could not find com­pe­tent en­gravers to com­plete all the work. He re­turned to Aus­tria and died in Vi­enna in 1826.

“Fer­di­nand Bauer is widely re­garded as the world’s most ac­com­plished botanic artist,” says Fiona Salmon, di­rec­tor of the Flin­ders Univer­sity Art Mu­seum and co-cu­ra­tor of Truth and Beauty. Many of the Bauer prints on dis­play in the ex­hi­bi­tion are in the Flin­ders Univer­sity col­lec­tion thanks to the en­thu­si­asm of the late Lance McCarthy, a physi­cist at the univer­sity.

One of those works, Banksia coc­cinea was among the 15 prints that ap­peared in Bauer’s 1813 pub­li­ca­tion Il­lus­tra­tiones Flo­rae No­vae Hol­lan­diae.

“It was un­usual for the il­lus­tra­tor to also en­grave the plate and hand-colour the im­age,” says Salmon. “Metic­u­lous in de­tail and del­i­cate in re­solve, the work is of en­dur­ing sci­en­tific sig­nif­i­cance and aes­thetic ap­peal.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.