Image Indigenous Australians defending their land, c1817

TLF ID R4024

This is a 17.7 cm x 27.9 cm watercolour showing about 40 Indigenous Australian people attacking a rowboat carrying five colonists. Most of the warriors are on a steep, rocky headland and those close to the water have spears raised. Two appear to be picking up stones while those further up the cliff watch on. About ten Indigenous Australians appear to be swimming near the boat, one carrying a spear in his mouth. A sailing ship is anchored in the next bay and there are low islands in the background.



Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset depicts Indigenous Australians defending their land against the British - this scene may not have been witnessed by the artist himself as it is most likely a representation of an earlier event that had occurred in about 1789; settlers' hunting had caused food shortages for the local Dharug people and, close to starvation, a group of Dharug attacked a fishing crew from the 'Sirius' and took some of the catch.
  • It demonstrates the tactical knowledge of the warriors who have the advantage of high ground with bushes and rocks for cover - the spear men are organised in three rows and swimmers are approaching the rowboat from the front and sides; in such situations, women and children were usually secure behind the line of fire.
  • It demonstrates the use of European conventions to depict the Australian landscape - the painting has elements of Neoclassicism in its formal, carefully balanced composition; it also displays elements of Romanticism in the artist's choice of exotic subject matter; the simple, stiff figures and simplistic choice of colours are characteristic of the naive style of painting.
  • It is part of an important collection of paintings showing the daily life of Indigenous Australians in early colonial times - a bound album of 20 watercolours, painted before 1828 by Englishman Joseph Lycett, was bought by the National Library of Australia at Sotheby's, London, in 1972 for £9,500; the album's title page 'Drawings of the natives and scenery of Van Diemen's Land 1830' is partly incorrect as all the watercolours with identifiable locations are in New South Wales near Newcastle and Port Jackson (Sydney).
  • It was painted by the convict artist Joseph Lycett, who was transported to NSW in 1814 for forgery - although four of the watercolours appear to be at least partly copied from other works, he did have some contact with Indigenous Australians as there is a record of him being wounded in an attack before he returned to England in 1822.
Year level

2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • history;
  • studies of society and environment
Strand
  • Studies of society and environment/Culture
  • Studies of society and environment/Time, continuity and change
  • History/Historical knowledge and understandings

Other details

Contributors
  • Content provider
  • Copyright holder
  • Organisation: National Library of Australia
  • Remarks: Reproduced courtesy of National Library of Australia
  • Author
  • Name: Joseph Lycett
  • Remarks: artist
  • Publisher
  • Date of contribution: 02 Sep 2013
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia
  • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
  • URL: http://www.esa.edu.au
Access profile
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning resource type
  • Image
Browsers
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  • Safari - minimum version: 5.1 (MacOS)
Operating systems
  • MacOS - minimum version: 10.6
  • MS-Windows - minimum version: XP - maximum version: 7
Rights
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements