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Australian art Colonial NSW & Tasmania

The penal settlement of Van Diemen's Land, which was established in 1803, became a British colony separate from New South Wales in 1825 (renamed Tasmania in 1856). British artists who emigrated to the new colony included John Glover. Aged 64, he arrived in 1831 after a successful career in England. He found a new creative impetus in Tasmania and went on to become the most important Australian colonial artist of his time. Glover's vibrant landscapes, both pastoral and sublime, are suffused with light and colour – and he faithfully depicted the 'peculiarity in the trees'. Arriving a year after Glover, Benjamin Duterrau produced the first Australian history paintings – representing the so-called 'conciliation' of Tasmania's Indigenous people by George Augustus Robinson. In 1829 the colonial government engaged Robinson to affect a peaceful conclusion to the violent conflict between white settlers and the Indigenous inhabitants. Though well-meaning, Robinson's program to relocate the already decimated Indigenous people failed, and almost all of them died separated from their traditional lands. Benjamin Law, who arrived in the colony at this time, produced classicised portrait busts of two key figures in the 'conciliation' saga, Wourreddy, a tribal chief, and his partner Trucaninny – both had acted as interpreters and guides for Robinson.

New South Wales, Britain's first penal colony in Australia, was founded in 1788, and initially any art produced was the work of skilled convicts. The first artist to come to Sydney as a free settler, the British etcher and natural history illustrator John Lewin, arrived in 1800. His published depictions of the insects, birds, plants and animals of the new colony are recognised as some the most significant works in Australian colonial art. In 1825 the itinerant British artist Augustus Earle arrived in New South Wales, and quickly established himself as Sydney's leading painter. Earle remained in the colony for some three years, earning an income mainly from portrait commissions. He also produced lithographic views and painted landscapes as well as scenes of his inland adventures. London-trained Conrad Martens settled in Sydney in 1835, and for more than four decades he was the colony's undisputed leader of landscape painting. Sydney's pristine harbour and the wilder interior inspired his art. He received numerous commissions to paint the mansions and estates of enterprising colonists. While Martens was equally capable as an oil painter, watercolourist and lithographer, the majority of his work was executed in watercolour.