Culture Buff

A Nation Imagined: The Artists of the Picturesque Atlas at the National Library of Australia

27 March 2021

9:00 AM

27 March 2021

9:00 AM

If you go to Canberra to see the NGA’s exhibition Botticelli to Van Gogh and are mildly disappointed, your journey need not have been wasted.

Go up the road to the National Library of Australia to view the current show there: A Nation Imagined: The Artists of the Picturesque Atlas. It’s an absolute delight! Not many of us have heard of the Picturesque Atlas but happily the combined forces of the National Library and the Art Gallery of NSW have brought this seminal publication to life in a small, beautifully presented exhibition.


The Atlas was published in 42 parts between 1886 and 1889 to 50,000 subscribers, an astonishing number given the size of the population. They were also seen by visitors to the world expos in Melbourne and Chicago. The Atlas documented through illustrations, maps and text a settler-colonial view of Australia’s history, landscape and way of life.  It helped forge Australians view of themselves and their country, particularly as many were relatively new arrivals. Through its use of outstanding artists it was also a catalyst for the art movement: Australian impressionism. Indeed the celebrated 9 by 5 exhibition was mounted in 1889.

The exhibition (until 11 July) showcases the work of Julian Ashton, A. Henry Fullwood and Frank Mahoney together with that of other contributors including Ellis Rowan and Constance Roth.  Not to be missed!

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