The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) and Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (QVMAG) are partnering with Museum of Natural History in Le Havre, France, and five other Australian museums to bring the exquisite illustrations made by French artists from Nicolas Baudin’s 1800s exploration to Australia.
The stunning original watercolours and drawings by expedition artists Charles-Alexandre Lesueur and Nicolas-Martin Petit will be showcased at venues across the country including Hobart and Launceston.
In early 1802, the French explorers landed in Tasmania and spent time interacting with the Tasmanian Aboriginal people and recording their language and culture, flora and fauna as well as collecting cultural objects and specimens.
Most of the anticipated 100 illustrations to be included in the planned touring exhibition have never been displayed in Australia before. The drawings are held permanently by the Museum of Natural History in Le Havre.
TMAG Director Janet Carding said that the illustrations provide an opportunity to tell many of the stories associated with the interactions between the French explorers and the Tasmanian Aboriginal people.
“Baudin’s expedition represents a significant part of Tasmania’s history and these illustrations provide unique insights into the lives of Tasmanian Aboriginal people pre-colonisation,” Ms Carding said.
“I am delighted to be part of a national collaboration to bring these extraordinary works to Australia and indeed to be working with QVMAG to showcase this important material across Tasmania.”
QVMAG Director Richard Mulvaney said he was pleased that two of Tasmania’s major cultural institutions were able to participate in this touring exhibition.
“I am very excited that QVMAG and TMAG are able to collaborate with each other in order to display this significant exhibition in both the north and the south of the state for the benefit of all Tasmanians,” said Mr Mulvaney.
Illustrations featured in the exhibition will include evocative portraits of Tasmanian Aboriginal people, images of their baskets and watercraft, watercolours of marine invertebrates, highly accurate profiles of the coastline, as well as drawings of Tasmanian animals such as the now extinct King Island emu.