Category Archives: Visual arts

What the Australian landscape looked like, before we changed it

As we drove across central NSW the other weekend, admiring the beautiful pastoral countryside, I couldn’t help but wonder just how much of that (if any) was still the way it had been before the Europeans arrived. What had it looked like before we started clearing the hills and valleys? Before we planted imported vegetation?

The Bogong Ranges in 1866

As it happens, the National Gallery of Victoria currently has an exhibition of paintings by Eugene Von Guerin, an Austrian painter who captured much of the Australian landscape in the middle of the 19th century. Obviously a lot of change had already been wrought by then, but there were still patches of undisturbed wilderness for him to record.

It’s an amazing set for those of us who live here to view, particularly of places where you recognise the terrain itself, the shape of the mountains and the valleys, around which everything else has since been so radically altered.

Unfortunately the versions available to view online are only low-resolution scans. I think this will be worth going to the gallery to actually see in person.