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S.T. Gill and Indigenous Australians

Explore the Australian Sketchbook exhibition through the theme of S.T. Gill and Indigenous Australians.

 

S.T. Gill arrived in Australia in 1839 as a 21-year-old journeyman-artist, complete with the prejudices of most Englishmen of his generation. In 1846, he participated as a freelance artist in a so-called journey of exploration—the Horrocks expedition—during which the camel inadvertently shot the expedition leader.

Gill initially depicted Indigenous people as ‘hostile natives’, but as he got to know them, observing their hunting methods, their life in the bush and in towns, their roles as stockmen and trackers, he came to see them as beautiful people who were dispossessed, exploited and alienated, and forced to live as exiles in their own country. He made some of the most compassionate images of Indigenous people that survive from colonial times, and whereas many contemporary artists sought to depict Indigenous people as noble savages or as a dying remnant of a race lost in the mists of time, Gill chronicled their plight in the face of European occupation of their land.