First Fleet paintings: the Ducie Collection at NLA

Subject: First Fleet paintings: the Ducie Collection at NLA
From: David McDonald <>
Date: Sat, 29 Jul 2006 21:36:39 +1000 (EST)
Many thanks to Barbara Allan for organising for COG
members to view the NLA's wonderful First Fleet
paintings of birds & plants by George Raper.
They are online at

 The National Library of Australia has purchased 56
rare and exquisite First Fleet watercolours from David
Moreton, seventh Earl of Ducie and the Moreton family.
The Ducie Collection
( is the largest
and most significant collection of First Fleet
material acquired by the Library since the 1962
purchase of a sketchbook of drawings by Captain John

Carefully drawn, many of the paintings are the first
visual record of Australian plant and animal species
from the hand of a European artist. Attributed to
George Raper
, a Midshipman on the Sirius, they show the birds and
flowers of the Port Jackson area as he perceived them
between 1788 and 1790.

The paintings were discovered in 2004 in a storage
building at the Tortworth estate in the Cotswolds,
England, during a routine valuation. Passed down
through generations of the Moreton family, unsigned
and undated, their significance was unrecognised. The
colours are astonishingly vibrant as a result of the
lack of handling and display.

The species depicted include the Crimson Rosella, the
now-endangered Swift Parrot, a Laughing Kookaburra and
a fairy wren. The artist was clearly fascinated by the
brightness of the birds? plumage and the cheekiness of
the parrots. Raper, alone of all the First Fleet
artists, used a glittering bronze paint to capture the
sheen on the feathers of the Bronzewing Pigeon. The
flower paintings include a waratah, boronia, crowea,
dendrobium and several lilies.

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