Australian Identity In Artwork

How did painters portray Australian identity?

The Early Years

Nicholas Chevailer

During the first 100 years in Australia painters would often portray Australia to look much like England. They didn't paint the trees like Australian trees, they painted the dry yellow land green, lots of the paintings seemed to resemble Europe more than Australia.


Nicholas Chevalier was a Russian artist. He came to Australia to be with his brother Louis, after his fortunes declined. Louis was a free settler in Australia, Nicholas joined him in February 1855.

Nicholas' painting 'The Buffalo Ranges' shows an Australian scene through European eyes. The mountains look more Swiss than Australian, and the land appears less dry. This is an example of the misrepresentation of Australia that would appear in paintings painted before the 1880's.



Becoming Australian

Arthur Streeton

By the 1800s many people had been born and raised in Australia. As many of the artists had grown up in Australia they knew nothing else. People began to depict Australia in more realistic and uniquely Australian ways.


Arthur Streeton was an Australian artist born in Duneed, Victoria. His father and wife met on their voyage from England. In Arthur's painting the Australian landscape is more truthful to the land. The yellow dry grass shows how the land is quite dry and more Australian plants like the typical gum trees are being painted. The typical Australian people are beginning to be painted as well as Australian beaches and farms that are unique to Australia. Below are some of Arthur's paintings.

Tom Roberts

During the 1800s the occupants of Australia had become more aware of their identity, people started believing they were unique and a separate part of the British Empire. They started seeing themselves as Australian.


Tom Roberts was born in Great Britain and moved to Australia in 1869. Tom conceived the idea of painting a bushranger whilst he stayed at Inverell in northern NSW, it shows us the qualities of the local landscape. His paintings are really true to the land and show how hot Australia is.


Other Paintings of Australia