Beauty from nature: Art of the Scott Sisters

By Australian Museum

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.

Fruit Piercing Moth, Eudocima fullonia (1850/1870) by Helena ScottAustralian Museum

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.

Harriet Scott, Mitchell Library, SLNSW - MLMSS1694, 1830/1907, From the collection of: Australian Museum
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Helena Emperor Moth, Opodipthera helena, Helena Scott, 1850/1870, From the collection of: Australian Museum
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Helena Scott, Australian Museum, 1832/1910, From the collection of: Australian Museum
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Orchard Swallowtail, Papilio (Princeps) aegeus aegeus, Helena Scott, 1850/1870, From the collection of: Australian Museum
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White-stemmed Gum Moth, Chelepteryx collesi, Harriet Scott, 1850/1870, From the collection of: Australian Museum
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Hepialid Moth, Abantiades labyrinthicus, Helena Scott, 1850/1870, From the collection of: Australian Museum
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Emperor Moth, Syntherata janetta, Harriet Scott, 1850/1870, From the collection of: Australian Museum
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Emperor Moth, Opodiphthera astrophela, Helena Scott, 1850/1870, From the collection of: Australian Museum
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Fruit Piercing Moth, Eudocima fullonia, Helena Scott, 1850/1870, From the collection of: Australian Museum
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Emperor Moth, Opodiphthera eucalypti, Harriet Scott, 1850/1870, From the collection of: Australian Museum
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Bent-wing Swift Moth, Zelotypia stacyi, Helena Scott, 1850/1870, From the collection of: Australian Museum
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Notodontid Moth, Aglaosoma variegatum, Harriet Scott, 1850/1870, From the collection of: Australian Museum
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Black Jezebel Butterfly, Delias nigrina, Helena Scott, 1850/1870, From the collection of: Australian Museum
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Privet Hawk Moth, Psilogramma menephron and Scrofa Hawk Moth, Helena Scott, 1850/1870, From the collection of: Australian Museum
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Anthelid Moth, Anthela excellens and Xyloryctid Moth, Cryptophasa irrorata, Harriet and Helena Scott, 1850/1870, From the collection of: Australian Museum
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Privet Hawk Moth, Psilogramma menephron, Helena Scott, 1850/1870, From the collection of: Australian Museum
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Crexa Moth, Gendura punctigera, Helena Scott, 1850/1870, From the collection of: Australian Museum
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Saunder's Case Moth, Metura elongatus, Helena Scott, 1850/1870, From the collection of: Australian Museum
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Nataxa flavescens and other moths in the family Lymantriidae, Helena Scott, 1850/1870, From the collection of: Australian Museum
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Lily Caterpillar, Spodoptera picta, Harriet Scott, 1850/1870, From the collection of: Australian Museum
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Cardamyla carinentalis and other moths in the family Pyralidae, Harriet Scott, 1850/1870, From the collection of: Australian Museum
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Pink Leaf Moth, Wingia lambertella and Orange Palm Dart, Cephenes augiades sperthias, Helena Scott, 1850/1870, From the collection of: Australian Museum
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Common Ghost Moth, Aenetus eximia and Fruit Piercing Moth, Eudocima salaminia, Scott family, 1850/1870, From the collection of: Australian Museum
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Anthelid Moth, Anthela varia, Scott family, 1850/1870, From the collection of: Australian Museum
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Credits: Story

An exhibition produced by the Australian Museum,

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

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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