The Black Thursday bushfires were the largest ever recorded in Australia, and were caused in part by an intense drought that had occurred throughout 1850. On 6 February 1851, a strong furnace-like wind came down from the north and gained power and speed as the hours passed. It is believed that the disaster began in the Plenty Ranges when bullock drivers left logs burning unattended, which set fire to long, dry grass affected by the recent drought. Approximately 5 million hectares, or a quarter of Victoria, was burnt. Twelve human lives were lost, along with one million sheep, thousands of cattle and countless native animals.


  • Title: Black Thursday, February 6th 1851
  • Creator: William Strutt, 1825-1916
  • Date: 1864
  • Location: Victoria
  • Rights: This work is out of copyright. No copyright restrictions apply.
  • lithograph: Painting
  • View more information about this image in the State Library Victoria catalogue: http://search.slv.vic.gov.au/MAIN:SLV_VOYAGER1655022
  • View a full-size version of this image: http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/74159
  • Physical dimensions: 106.5 x 343.0 cm.
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • A.E. Ferris: The son and grandson of artists, William Strutt was born in Teignmouth, Devon. He studied in Paris in the atelier of Michel-Martin Drölling and at the École des Beaux Arts, and immigrated to Australia in 1850 due to poor health. Strutt was employed in Melbourne by the Ham brothers and produced engravings for the Illustrated ‘Australian Magazine’. John Pascoe Fawkner was a patron, and Strutt painted a number of oil portraits of notable Victorians, as well as miniature watercolour portraits of Aborigines, police and bushrangers. Together with Eugene von Guérard, Ludwig Becker, Nicholas Chevalier and James Smith, Strutt revived the Victorian Society of Fine Arts. His final works in Australia were sketches of the preparations of the Burke and Wills expedition. In 1862 Strutt returned to England. Over the next 30 years he regularly exhibited paintings at the Royal Academy, and he was elected a member of the Royal Society of British Artists in 1891.

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