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"A Native of New South Wales surprising and wounding another whilst asleep"

Artist: Port Jackson Painter
Created: [between 1788 and 1797]
Dimensions: 20.8 x 30 cm
Reference: Watling Drawing - no. 47


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Two Aboriginal men fighting by the water's edge, watched by two others. At the centre of the composition the figure who is being attacked is depicted as if attempting to rise from a lying position, with a flat-headed club in his right hand. His chest is pierced by a spear, and blood drips from the wound. He is being held down by his attacker, who is raising a sword-shaped club in his right hand. To the left they are approached by another man armed with spears and a sword, and to the right they are watched by a figure paddling a canoe. The land is composed of pale grey and green washes overlaid with darker brush marks and serpentine lines, with stylised tufts of grass and grass trees, and other trees of various sizes. The water to the right is represented by a gradated wash of blue through yellow to pink, overlaid with grey and black horizontal lines in the foreground. There are islands on the horizon, and the sky is largely unpainted, with some blue wash towards the top and pink on the horizon. The illustration itself measures 15.2 x 27.3 cm., and is annotated in brown ink in a separate ruled margin underneath. The whole is framed by a triple-banded ink border, the central band coloured with pink wash.


hide notes

  • Port Jackson Painter]
  • The drawing is inscribed in blue pencil at top with the number "56", which refers to the pre-1984 numbering system for the Watling Collection.
  • The drawing is annotated in brown ink at bottom "A Native of New South Wales surprising & wounding another whilst a sleep".
  • The drawing is unsigned and undated.
  • The author of this catalogue record is Suzanne Stenning.
  • By permission of the trustees of the Natural History Museum (London).
  • Two sets of transparencies held in the Natural History Museum (London) Zoology Library and Picture Library: Picture Library order number 12047
  • James Lee of Kensington : purchased ; 1902
  • Data sheet available.
  • Wheeler, A. and Smith, B, (eds.) The Art of the First Fleet and other early Australian Drawings. New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1988. (Plate 25, p. 37.)