Houghton-on-the-Hill, Leicester, England 1767 – Deddington, Tasmania, Australia 1849
The bath of Diana, Van Diemen's Land
Deddington, Tasmania, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on canvas
By the time John Glover arrived in Tasmania in 1831, it was too late (it is thought) to see Aboriginal people living freely in the bush. However, from the moment of his settling in the colony, Glover was acutely interested in the Aboriginal people. Here, he presents an imagined scene of their idyllic and untroubled life before the European invasion — what Glover called ‘the gay, happy life the natives led before the White people came here’. In its explicit use of mythology to comment on contemporary events, Glover’s painting is unique in Australian colonial art.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002
Here Glover takes the Roman myth of Diana, goddess of the hunt, and Actaeon from Ovid's Metamophases and re-envisages it as a glimpse of the imagined idyllic life of the Aboriginal people of Tasmania pre-settlement. The landscape depicted is the Strathallan Rivulet near Brighton, where Glover first lived. Aboriginal women sit on the bank as the Diana figure swims out into the river, secretly watched by Actaeon. In Ovid's tale when Diana discovers his indiscretion she turns him into a stag eventually devoured by his own hounds. The work is one of an important group in which Glover foreshadows the fate of the Tasmania Aboriginal people with dignity and' sensitivity.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra