As Alan Bennett wrote in his play, The History Boys:
“History is a commentary on the various and continuing incapabilities of men. What is history? History is women following behind with the bucket.”
As we mark another International Women’s Day on 8 March 2017, and in the midst of #nastywomen hashtags and pink pussy hats, I decided to explore the Treasures Gallery to see who I might discover ‘following behind with the bucket’.
Before Masterchef, foodtrucks and celebrity chefs, the eating and cooking habits of Australians were limited to the knowledge of recipes passed down to them by their family or shared by their friends. Eating out was an infrequent activity and cooking to a certain degree was a means of providing fuel for the family rather than providing a ‘dining experience’. The influx of immigrants after the Second World War and increasing wealth meant that Australians had access to a wider range of food and more leisure time to cook new and interesting meals.
Having established a clear link between the City of Aberdeen and a London bookseller, sometime hosier and dealer in articles of natural history last year, the life of Alexander Shaw has continued to cause me to itch.
And so while in Scotland recently I was delighted to come face-to-face with records relating to Alexander Shaw's business dealings, his estate and the Alexander Shaw Hospital.
A curious, dry-humoured young French woman seems an unlikely figure to play a key role in the history of Pacific exploration. Yet 23-year-old Rose de Freycinet (1794-1832) fulfils this role in providing a unique insight into life at sea. Unwilling to be parted from her husband Louis (1779-1842) while his expedition circumnavigated the globe, she chose to accompany him on the long voyage rather than wait at home.
Artist Augustus Earle’s life was in many respects so remarkable that if it wasn’t true it would have had to be invented. Born in London in 1793, he exhibited at the Royal Academy from the age of 13 and is acknowledged as the first independent, professional artist to visit all continents. He documented his travels with candour and honesty. Loving travel and immersing himself in the worlds he encountered, he captured them in luminous watercolours.
Today the term ‘Aussie battler’ sits easily in the Australian vernacular, is used nightly on current affairs television programs, and in popular culture in characters such as the Kerrigan family in the 1997 film The Castle. For the first half of the twentieth century the Rudd family were the quintessential Aussie battlers; the working class family who continued fighting against the odds, always embracing their challenges with humour and optimism.
It is interesting that Rex Nan Kivell (1898–1977), an art dealer who was so passionately interested in portraiture and in the representation of those that shaped our part of the world, only commissioned two artists to capture him in portrait form. He included these works in his compendium Portraits of the Famous and Infamous along with references to, and images of, his friends and those who had assisted him to produce his very time-consuming volume over nearly two decades.
T.F.W. (active 1800), possibly George Barrington c. 1800, Rex Nan Kivell Collection (Pictures), NK9767-A, nla.catvn536015
George Baxter (1804-1867), The massacre of the lamented missionary the Rev. J. Williams and Mr Harris, printed in oil colours [by] the patentee G. Baxter, London : Published by G. Baxter, 1841, nla.obj-138467869 Rex Nan Kivell Collection (Pictures)