New book showcases prized First Fleet collection
23 March 2009
One of the National Library of Australia’s most significant acquisitions, 56 watercolour paintings by First Fleet artist George Raper, now forms the basis of a stunning new National Library publication.
First Fleet Artist George Raper’s Birds and Plants of Australia, by the National Library’s Curator of Pictures, Linda Groom, traces the remarkable life of a young man now recognised as Australia’s best First Fleet artist. It also tells the story of the paintings and how they found their way from an outbuilding at Tortworth Manor in Gloucestershire, during a routine valuation of the estate of the Earl of Ducie, to the other side of the world and the National Library’s collection.
The paintings have been described as one of the most important collections to have come on to the market in 50 years.
The National Library began negotiations to buy the paintings in January 2005 after being approached by trustees of the estate who wanted an Australian institution to purchase them rather than being split up. The Library acquired the paintings in October 2005.
To establish their authenticity, National Library conservators and curatorial staff examined the drawings in April 2005, with an analysis of the watermarks in the paper confirming a probable date in the First Fleet period.
With the intense interest in the acquisition in 2005, came requests for a book featuring the images. The new book also contains the results of the author’s research in Australia and England which brought to life new facts about the little-known midshipman George Raper.
Linda Groom is available for interview.
High-res images from the new book are available to download at www.nla.gov.au/media/
Sally Hopman, Media Liaison Manager, National Library of Australia
02 6262 1704 or 0401 226 697
First Fleet Artist: George Raper’s Birds and Plants of Australia
By Linda Groom
National Library of Australia publication.