Banksia by Bauer

Ferdinand Lucas Bauer (1760-1826)
Drawing overview
The Ferdinand Bauer Drawings Collection
Exhibition and publication details
References and further reading

Ferdinand Lucas Bauer (1760-1826)

Ferdinand Lucas Bauer and his brother Franz (Francis) were from an artistic Austrian family. They are now regarded as probably the most accomplished and capable botanical artists of all time.

As a young man, Ferdinand travelled to England, from where he accompanied John Sibthorpe, a botanist from Oxford University, to Greece in 1784. This resulted in the publication of the now famous Flora Graeca (1806), which contains the magnificent artworks Bauer created to represent the Greek flora. Bauer subsequently travelled to Australia on the ship HMS Investigator as botanical draughtsman to Sir Joseph Banks' botanist, Robert Brown (1773-1858).

HMS Investigator was commanded by Captain Matthew Flinders, and it was on this famous voyage of exploration and scientific discovery that Australia was circumnavigated and charted in detail for the first time. Throughout the voyage, Bauer sketched the plants and animals that were seen and collected. His coloured artworks revealed the wonders of the Australian flora and fauna to European eyes for the first time. Some of the paintings were published as engravings in the 1813 work, Illustrationes Flora Novae Hollandiae. This was the first detailed account of the natural history of the Australian continent.

In later life, Bauer returned to his familiar Vienna surroundings, taking many sketches with him while leaving the watercolours in England as the property of the Admiralty. Today, these illustrations are of immense botanical and historical interest, particularly in Europe and Australia.

Drawing overview

This illustration depicts a Banksia specimen that was collected by the botanist Robert Brown, during the voyage of HMS Investigator. Bauer would have sketched the specimen very soon after it was gathered at Lucky Bay, Western Australia, in January of 1802. This area is now part of Cape Le Grand National Park and remains a very botanically rich area.

Bauer's initial pencil sketch was detailed enough for him to complete this beautiful watercolour after the voyage, using his careful skills and a remarkable numeric colour annotations scheme.

The Ferdinand Bauer Drawings Collection

Bauer's existing drawings are located in two major collections. Most of his sketches are held by the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna. Many of their finished watercolour counterparts are housed in the Library of the Natural History Museum in London. It is hoped that using digital technology it may be possible to re-unite the divided art work as one virtual collection.

The collection at the Natural History Museum has been photographed, conserved and remounted for preservation, display and handling purposes during the 1980s. It is accompanied by some pencil sketches that were made on Norfolk Island during 1804-1805.

A book has also recently been published about Ferdinand Bauer and the drawings held at the Natural History Museum.

Exhibition and publication details

This particular painting has been published in several scientific, biographical and artistic works, as well as in facsimile, but has rarely been on public display.

It featured in Metropole London: Macht und Glanz einer Weltstadt 1800-1840, an exhibition held at the Kulturstiftung Ruhr, Villa Hugel, Essen, from 6 June 1992 to 8 November 1992.

More recently, it was exhibited at the 1997 exhibition, An Exquisite Eye, in Sydney, Australia and again in Adelaide during 2002, at the Encounter 1802 exhibition.

The catalogues that were produced for these events are as follows:

Fox, C. (1992) London - World City, 1800-1840. Yale University Press: New Haven, Conn. 624pp.

Thomas, S. (2002) The Encounter 1802. Art Gallery of South Australia: Adelaide. 228pp.

Watts, P. et al. (1997) An Exquisite Eye: the Australian Flora and Fauna Drawings 1801-1820 of Ferdinand Bauer. Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales ; Museum of Sydney: New South Wales. 167pp.

The image has also been reproduced in:

Fusina, S. (2002) Bauer, Bauer & Co. L'Erbolario Edizioni: Lodi. 112pp.

The drawing was also reproduced as a print in Bauer's own publication:

Bauer, F. (1813) F. Bauer Illustrations Flora Novae Hollandiaesive Icones Generum quae in Prodromo Florµ Novas Hollandiaeet Insulae Van Diemen Descripsit R. Brown. London. 16pls.

References and further reading

Lack, W. and Mabberley, D. J. (1999) The Flora Graeca Story: Sibthorp, Bauer and Hawkins in the Levant. Oxford University Press: Oxford ; New York. 327pp.

Mabberley, D. J. and Moore, D. T. (1999) Catalogue of the holdings in the Natural History Museum (London) of the Australian botanical drawings of Ferdinand Bauer (1760-1826) and cognate materials relating to the Investigator voyage of 1801-1805. Bulletin of The Natural History Museum (Botany Series), vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 81-226.

Mabberley, D. (1999) Ferdinand Bauer: The Nature of Discovery. Merrell Holberton Publishers and The Natural History Museum: London.128pp.

Norst, M. J. (1989) Ferdinand Bauer: The Australian Natural History Drawings. Art in Natural History no.1. British Museum of Natural History: London. 120pp.