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The Land explores evolving interpretations of the Australian landscape.

The early agricultural development of rural Australia by European settlers has provided some of the most enduring myths about Australian identity. By the beginning of the 20th century agriculture had delivered enormous material benefits to pastoralists, and initial anxieties about the untamed quality of the Bush had been replaced by feelings of expansive pride.

At the time of Federation, Australia was a largely urban society looking to the country for the natural resources that guaranteed national prosperity. Many artists continued the tradition of landscape painting en plein air [in the open air] that had been espoused by the painters of the Heidelberg School towards the end of the 19th century.

As the centre of the continent became more accessible by air and road, artists discovered the desert - a landscape that provided an irresistible metaphor for a world ravaged by war. Artists have responded variously to the impact of fire, flood, drought, cyclone and even rabbit plague - those moments when nature has risen up in full fury have not only emphasised the resilience of its victims, but unified the nation in support.

In the work of Aboriginal artists a profoundly spiritual connection with the land is given expression and, in this section, works by artists from Arnhem Land and the desert are shown alongside paintings by white Australians. Interesting reverberations and connections between these two distinctly different but compatible cultures occur.

In recent times, as the environment and its degradation have become pressing concerns, artists have rediscovered the unique and fertile aspects of the land, but as wilderness, not as a source of wheat and wool.

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