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.
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.
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.
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.
A book has also recently been published about Ferdinand Bauer and the drawings held at the Natural History Museum.
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.
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.
Fusina, S. (2002) Bauer, Bauer & Co. L'Erbolario
Edizioni: Lodi. 112pp.
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.