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Black Snake, Pseudechis porphyriacus

Helena Scott1869

Museums Victoria

Museums Victoria

The print depicted here was included in Krefft's 700-copy limited edition Snakes of Australia published by the Government Printer though financed by Krefft himself in 1869. Plate VIII was drawn and lithographed by the natural science illustrator Helena Forde. The Black Snake is venomous, and is also known as the Red-bellied Black Snake. The Black Snake's length is between 1.5 and 2 metres. Helena Forde's artwork illustrates a very distinctive black, cream and red patterning. This plate lacks a natural setting background.Gerard Krefft, born in Germany in 1830 became one of Australia's early herpetologists, and in 1958 was appointed to the museum in Melbourne after returning with sketches from a Victorian government specimen collecting expedition. At the time that Snakes of Australia was written and published (1865-1869), Krefft was the Secretary and an Assistant Curator at the Australian Museum in Sydney. Krefft had from an early age shown skills in drawing and was himself an artist and draughtsman. While living in New York, and before moving to Australia, he had studied and copied some of Audubon's works. Gerard Krefft was lauded at the Sydney Intercolonial Exhibition of 1870 for his published research on Australian snakes, and Helena Scott and her sister received a Very High Commendation for the striking artwork that accompanied Krefft's text.

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Details

  • Title: Black Snake, Pseudechis porphyriacus
  • Creator: Helena Forde
  • Date Created: 1869
  • Physical Dimensions: w205 x h261 mm
  • Type: Image
  • Rights: Copyright expired: Source: Museum Victoria / Artist: Helena Forde, Copyright expired: Source: Museum Victoria / Artist: Helena Forde
  • Medium: Lithograph; Ink on Paper
  • Themes: Artistic Practices, Scientific Research, Natural History, Printing, Snakes, Sciences, Illustrations
  • Artist biography: Helena Forde (nee Scott) was born in Sydney in 1832, and was also known as Helena Scott, Nellie Scott, and Mrs. Edward Forde.In 1846, her father, Alexander Walker Scott, moved the family north of Sydney to Ash Island near Newcastle. It was this move that allowed Harriet and her sister to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the area, and to develop a keen eye for the flora and fauna of their environment. This aptitude for recording insects in particular was fostered by Alexander Scott, himself an artist with expertise in entomology and a keen interest in botany. In 1864 Helena married river navigator and artist Edward Forde, but he met an early death from fever in 1866. Helena has been described as an artist, draughtsman and painter, and, like her elder sister Harriet, was a professional artist and natural science collector and illustrator. She received commissions from the leading colonial and international natural scientists of the day to illustrate their work. Helena's 'Australian Lepidoptera and their Transformations', published in London in 1864, cemented her reputation within Sydney scientific circles. Gerard Krefft commissioned the Scott sisters to prepare the illustrations for his 'Snakes of Australia' published in Sydney in 1869.Krefft was lauded at the Sydney Intercolonial Exhibition of 1870 for his published research on Australian snakes, and Harriet Scott and her sister received a Very High Commendation for the striking artwork that accompanied Krefft�s text. The paintings for Krefft�s book were prepared on stone as lithography, usually by Helena or Harriet, and then printed in black and white. The prints were normally sent to London for specialised hand-colouring though it is not known if this is the case with the snake illustrations. Each print by Helena is signed in the bottom left-hand corner �del. et lith.�- drawn by and lithographed by the artist.The illustrative work of the Scott sisters was highly regarded for its precision and finish. They also used their skills in other ways, at one time producing a range of distinctively Australian wildflower Christmas cards. Helena also gained 4th place in the card-maker John Sands & Co. Competition in 1879.The Scott sisters were affected by the collapse of their father�s entrepreneurial dealings and continued to be in poor financial circumstances until their deaths. Helena continued to work until late in life, and died in Harris Park, Sydney in 1910.
  • Artist: Helena Forde

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