Beauty from nature: Art of the Scott Sisters

Australian Museum

With their collecting boxes, notebooks and paintbrushes, sisters Harriet and Helena Scott entered the masculine world of colonial science and became two of 19th-century Australia’s most prominent natural history illustrators.

Ash Island
In 1846, Harriet and Helena, then aged 16 and 14, moved from Sydney to the isolated Ash Island in the Hunter River estuary with their mother, Harriet Calcott, and father, entomologist and entrepreneur Alexander Walker Scott.

There, surrounded by unspoilt native vegetation and under the inspiring tutelage of their artistic father, their shared fascination with the natural world grew. For almost 20 years, the sisters lived and worked on the island, faithfully recording its flora and fauna, especially the butterflies and moths.

In preparing their historical snapshot of the island’s vegetation, the Kooragang group returned to the Scotts’ unusually detailed nineteenth-century recordings, held in the Australian Museum Archives. The collection includes a catalogue handwritten in 1862 entitled the Indigenous Botany of Ash Island, well-preserved botanical specimens, and spectacular depictions and scientific descriptions of the island’s moths and butterflies – the great strength of the two artists and their father.

Australian Museum
Credits: Story

An exhibition produced by the Australian Museum,

Rose Docker, Archivist, Australian Museum
Jennifer Cork, Online Manager, Australian Museum

Credits: All media
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