During the 1850s 'pteridimania' - or Fern-Fever - seized Australian colonies, stirred by the phenomenon which took hold in Britain in the late 1830s. Fern-tree gullies found on the outskirts of Melbourne, particularly those in the Dandenong Ranges, became a dominant motif in both the decorative and fine arts. Wishing to convey the grandeur of Australian scenery to British audiences, colonial painters depicted the natural beauty of these gullies in works of exquisite detail.

London-born Thomas Clark painted '(Fern tree gully)' for Victoria's first Surveyor-General, Robert Hoddle, probably based on drawings Hoddle made in the 1840s during field trips in the Dandenong Ranges. Clark presents a verdant Arcadia in which an Aboriginal family is seen walking through the landscape, although by the mid-1850s the Wurundjeri people had been displaced by European settlement and the establishment of timber mills.

Natalie Wilson
Curator, Australian & Pacific Art


  • Title: (Fern tree gully)
  • Creator: Thomas Clark
  • Date Created: 1862
  • Physical Dimensions: 40.3 x 64.5 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Purchased 1970
  • Medium: oil on canvas
  • Signature & Date: Signed and dated l.l. corner, pale green oil "Thos. Clark 1862/ ...".
  • Object Other Titles: (Fern gully with Aboriginal family)
  • Artist Country: Australia, England

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