Exploring Australia

In the early days of British settlement in Australia, Europeans were alternately fascinated and overwhelmed by the new world around them, including the astonishing animals they encountered. The naive images they created of the Platypus and parrots convey both their enchantment with this strange land and the challenges they faced understanding it.

France also harboured a desire to explore and colonise the Pacific. Successive French convoys were commissioned to assess the land, meet its indigenous inhabitants and collect samples of flora and fauna. On expeditions led by Baudin, Freycinet and Dumont d’Urville, artists and scientists created some of the most exquisite images of the European Enlightenment.

Questions for the classroom

Humanities Inquiry
Find out more about the period of the European Enlightenment.

How were ideas and beliefs changing?

How did these ideas and beliefs impact on illustrations of the natural world?

Science Inquiry
What animals were discovered in Australia that were previously unknown?

How did scientists respond to these newly discovered organisms?

Art Inquiry
In England Scientific Artists often worked from dried skin, preserved specimens and sketches sent from Australia.

Can you see evidence of awkwardly executed illustrations in the exhibition?

In what ways are they inaccurate?