Prussia 1822 – 1876
"Pattowatto". Granite boulders (Perry's haystack) looking N-W.
Collection Title: the unpublished folio Australia Terra Cognita by William Blandowski. 1855-56
Page: plate 8
Place made: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Materials & Technique: albums, prints, ink; paper etching, engraving, aquatint, roulette and lavis, printed in black ink, from one copper plate Support: chine colle on wove paper
Edition State: published state
Impression: undesignated impression as issued
Edition: print run unknown
The granite boulder at Pattowatto sits timeless, its bulk silhouetted against the glare of the late afternoon sky. Its ancient grandeur is contrasted with the ephemeral, as wisps of high cloud catch the last rays of the setting sun and the Aboriginal people continue their hunting, smoking a possum from a tree, seeming oblivious to this wonder of nature. Even the horse has turned its back.
In colonial art, scientific observation often merged with artistic vision. This engraving was produced to illustrate a scientific text, Australia Terra Cognita. Its author, the Prussian-born William Blandowski, mining engineer, naturalist, photographer and natural history artist, intended the book to be a compilation of his scientific inquiries in Australia. Arriving in Adelaide in 1849, he explored widely, travelling overland to Victoria where he made money goldmining before being appointed government zoologist. After conducting three expeditions, he fell out with his colleagues and, in 1859, he returned to Germany. His book was never completed, only 29 of the projected 200 illustrations being engraved.
Blandowski was no more than a competent draughtsman and was aware of his limitations as an artist. In Melbourne he employed engravers, James Redaway and Sons, to translate his work into prints and Redaway’s role in turning a scientific sketch into a luminous work of art cannot be underestimated. Blandowski allowed the engraver extraordinary latitude in the interpretation of his landscape subjects particularly those depicting geological formations. Redaway claimed the central role in the final look of the finished work by the unusual engraved description: ‘Effect & Engraving by …’ The similarity of these works with the engravings in J.M.W. Turner’s Liber Studiorum (1807–19) is obvious and it is not surprising to find that Redaway engraved one print after Turner before he migrated to Australia in 1852.
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