Explore some of the items from the State Library of NSW collection that have been produced with Google's Art Camera. Zoom into each image that is 1000 times more detailed than an average photograph.
Eighteen year old Joseph Backler, convicted for passing forged cheques in Soho in May 1831, had been sentenced to death for this crime, which was commuted to transportation to NSW for life.
He arrived in Sydney one year later. He was initially assigned to the Surveyor-General's Department, but was sent to Port Macquarie, a place of secondary punishment for further misdemeanours in May 1833.
By the 1840s he had returned to Sydney and was advertising his services as an artist; a portrait painter, along with landscapes. In the mid 1840s Backler travelled through New South Wales seeking commissions for his work, visiting Goulburn, Yass and in July 1847, Bathurst. The Sydney Morning Herald advised that Bathurst residents might avail 'themselves of an opportunity [to have a portrait painted] that may not occur again for years'. Sydney Morning Herald, 26 July, 1847, p. 2.
Explorer Abel Tasman (1603-1659) was commissioned by Anthony van Diemen, head of the Dutch East-India Company (VOC) in Batavia, to search for new trading markets for the company and explore the landmass south of the Dutch East Indies. In doing so, he is credited with the earliest charting of the west and northen coastlines of Australia, the first European discovery of Tasmania (which he named Van Diemen’s Land). It was during his first voyage, on the vessels, Heemskerck and Zeehaan in 1642-43, that he charted Tasmania, the west coast of New Zealand, parts of Tonga and Fiji, and the north coast of New Guinea for the first time.
On his second voyage, in 1644, he charted the south west coast of New Guinea and much of Australia’s previously unknown northern coastline. Despite charting large areas of the Australian coastline for the first time, Tasman failed to find a sailing route to the East and his voyage was considered a failure by the VOC authorities.
The Tasman map shows remarkably accurate sections of the Australia's western and northern coastlines, and forms the basis of most charts produced over the next 100 years until Captain James Cook’s Endeavour voyage charted the east coast of Australia in 1770.
John Glover was probably the most famous cultural immigrant to Australia in the 19th century. He had been a hugely successful landscape painter in England, prior to his arrival in Australia in 1831 at the age of 64. While his work was not always appreciated by art critics of the day, his paintings were successful in the market place. It is not known what motivated his decision to move to Australia. In part it was to join his son, who had emigrated earlier, and to take up a substantial land grant. But it also seems he hoped to encounter in Australia ‘a new Beautiful World – new landscapes, new trees, new flowers, new Animals & Birds’.* He was, in other words, looking for new inspiration.
'Hobart Town, Taken from the Garden Where I Live' is Glover’s homage to the achievements of British civilisation in Tasmania. His house, in Melville Street in West Hobart, overlooked the Derwent River. Its garden, with its English ornamental flowers such as geraniums and roses, reinforced the success of the transplantation of Europe into the Antipodes, while its detailed account of the town’s buildings would have surely impressed European viewers, who tended to view Australia as a dumping ground for convicts and degenerates. The painting was exhibited in London in 1835.
This panoramic view of Sydney was produced by Major James Taylor, a senior officer in the 48th Regiment. The work depicts the town of Sydney as it looked in 1821, as Governor Lachlan Macquarie was nearing the end of his governorship.
Lachlan Macquarie is celebrated as the first New South Wales Governor to envisage a future for the town beyond its origins as a convict outpost. As Sydney's first town planner, he engaged craftsmen and artisans, often from the ranks of the convicts such as Francis Greenway, to realise his ambitious program of public works - parks, roads, townships and, above all, gracious public buildings. Governor Macquarie's ambitious program of public and private buildings was begun in 1816.
‘It is not only the diggers who make money at the Gold Fields. Carters, carpenters, storemen, wheelwrights, butchers, shoe-makers &c., usually in the long run make a fortune quicker than the diggers themselves, and certainly with less hard work or risk of life.’*
Artists also flocked to the diggings hoping to make their fortune. The British painter, writer and traveller Edward Roper visited Australia at least twice between1855 and the late 1880s. His scenes of the Australian bush and goldfields were especially popular among audiences in England, who were deeply curious about life in the colonies. As shown in the vivid detail in this view of Ararat, his paintings continue to provide a rich record of life on diggings and this extraordinary chapter in Australia’s history.
*From 'A lady's visit to the gold diggings of Australia in 1852–53', by Ellen Clacy, 1853, p 93.
Joseph Lycett was from Staffordshire in the UK who had been transported to NSW as a convict. In his transportation records, he was described as a 'portrait and miniature painter'. He had learned to engrave on copper and to use a printing press, having been transported to the convict colony for forging banknotes. He repeated this offence in Sydney, resulting in him being transferred to Newcastle for several years.
Signed in tiny letters, visible only under a glass, or at high magnification, at lower left, is the artist's signature, `Lycett'.
The ongoing threat of floods can prove disasterous for settlers and farmers. In 1816 Governor Macquarie wrote of "... a complete and awful Flood having taken place [in Windsor] ... to the great injury and distress of the Settlers residing on the banks of the river and creek, who will lose their houses and greatest part of the grain both in and out of the ground". (Journal of Lachlan Macquarie, 1816. Manuscript, A773)
Backler spent nine years at Port Macquarie, then a convict settlement. He was punished several times for crimes, including spending six months in irons for holding firearms illegally, fifty lashes for cutting his irons and fourteen days in the cells for harbouring a female convict. He made at least six landscapes of the settlement.