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Native man of New South Wales with his mutton, that the (sic) spear fish with. / The same native presenting the fish he has caught to his wife

Date: c 1820
Overall: 521 x 613 mm, 500 g
Display dimensions: 625 x 825 x 30 mm
Medium: Pen, ink, watercolour, body colour, gum arabic and laid paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Painting
Object No: 00000022
Place Manufactured:Sydney
Related Place:New South Wales,

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    This vivid watercolour by convict artist Richard Browne depicts two fishing scenes. The first shows an Aboriginal man presenting four fish he has caught to his wife who is sitting on the ground by a fire. The image is captioned 'The same Native presenting the fish he has caught to his Wife'.

    In the second image, an Aboriginal man is holding a long spear and a single large fish. This image is captioned 'Native Man of N.S. Wales; with his Mutton, that the [sic] spear fish with'.

    This watercolour may have been a study for later works by Browne completed in 1819 and 1820. It directly relates to another Browne watercolour in the Museum's collection 00000021.
    SignificanceAmong the thousands of convicts transported to Australia from 1788 until the mid-19th century were skilled artists transported for forgery. These artists, including Richard Browne, used their skills to record and interpret the landscape and people of the colony. This watercolour holds enormous significance as an early European depiction of Aboriginal people of the Sydney region in the early 1800s.

    HistoryRichard Browne was born in Dublin in 1771 and was sentenced to transportation in 1810, possibly for forgery. He arrived in Sydney in 1811 on the PROVIDENCE, and was relocated to the secondary penal colony of Newcastle a few months later. Browne remained in Newcastle until 1817, during which time he came into contact with Lieutenant Thomas Skottowe, the commandant of Newcastle 1811-1814, who commissioned Browne to create drawings of his natural history collections to illustrate his manuscript. Browne also contributed original illustrations to Major James Wallis's 'An historical account of the Colony of New South Wales' which were subsequently engraved. These natural history studies and landscape paintings demonstrated Browne's competence in watercolour painting.

    Upon Browne's return to Sydney in 1817, he concentrated on illustrating the Indigenous people of the Sydney area, completing bust-length portraits and full-length figure compositions. Some have described Browne's depictions as unsympathetic and grotesque caricatures, presenting Australian Aborigines as natural history curiosities, while others describe his works as simple, inexpensive souvenirs produced with the intention of showing visitors a view of the Indigenous way of life. Richard Browne died in Sydney in 1824, and it is thought that his son William later produced copies of his drawings which circulated widely in Europe.

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