Original drawings and paintings by the artists of The Picturesque Atlas of Australasia are on show at the National Library in A Nation Imagined: The Artists of the Picturesque Atlas from Friday 12 March to Sunday 11 July 2021.

Published in supplements between 1886 and 1889, the Atlas set out to document through illustrations, maps and text a settler-colonial view of Australia's history, landscape and ways of life, and did so with the aid of over 800 remarkable steel- and wood-engraved illustrations. It was also a catalyst for the art movement that followed, now known as Australian impressionism.

The exhibition showcases the art of three of the Atlas's principal artists – Julian Ashton, A. Henry Fullwood and Frank Mahony – with more than 180 prints, engravings, paintings, drawings, and the tools they used to create them, on show. The works of other Atlas contributors including William Macleod, Ellis Rowan, Constance Roth and Americans William Smedley and Frederic B. Schell, are also featured.

A Nation Imagined: The Artists of the Picturesque Atlas is presented in partnership with the Art Gallery of New South Wales and has been co-curated by Natalie Wilson, Curator of Australian and Pacific Art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and Dr Gary Werskey, a guest co-curator of the exhibition, Honorary Associate in the Department of History at the University of Sydney and author of Picturing a Nation: The Art and Life of A.H. Fullwood.

Book now to attend a curator talk with Dr Gary Werskey on why the artists of the Picturesque Atlas matter.

Join the conversation with #ANationImagined

A Conversation with the Curators

Join exhibition curators Natalie Wilson and Dr Gary Werskey for a curator talk in the Exhibition Gallery.

Attend the Exhibition

The National Library's exhibition galleries are open daily from 9am to 5pm AEDT. The exhibition is free and on until Sunday 11 July 2021. No bookings are required.

Join a guided tour of the exhibition every Tuesday and Sunday at 10:30am. These tours depart from the Main Foyer. Bookings for tours are essential

Plan your CovidSafe visit to the National Library of Australia

View highlights from the Exhibition

A prospector holding and looking at a pan

The Atlas

About the Atlas

The Artists

About the artists

Shop the Exhibition

The National Library's Bookshop has a selection of items available for purchase relating to the exhibition and this period in Australian history. 

Additional Resources

The National Library's education team have developed a Digital Classroom module based on this exhibition. The resource, aligned with the Australian Curriculum for Visual Arts, is designed for students in Years 9 and 10.

Media Enquiries

Media are welcome to use these resources in their coverage of this exhibition. For media enquiries, please contact Georgia McDonald, Program Manager, Marketing and Media, on 0401 226 697 or media@nla.gov.au

Images (in order of appearance, left to right):

1. A. Henry Fullwood, Jervis Bay and Shoalhaven River, New South Wales, 1891, Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased 1891; 2. Julian Ashton, The prospector (detail), 1889, oil on canvas on hardboard, 213.4 x 116.9 cm, Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased 1889, Photo: AGNSW, Jenni Carter; 3. William Smedley, Spring Street, Melbourne, from the Picturesque Atlas of Australasia, nla.cat-vn1654251; 4. Ellis Rowan, Blandfordia grandiflora R.Br., family Blandfordiaceae, ca. 1885, nla.cat-vn1318532; 5. Cover of Picturing a Nation: The Art & Life of A. H. Fullwood by Dr Gary Werskey, alongside the original artwork from the cover – A. Henry Fullwood, Shoalhaven River from Cambarwarra [sic], 1892.