Vegetation in the early landscape art of the Sydney region, Australia: Accurate record or artistic licence?

L. C. McLoughlin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


With its relatively short European history, Australia's earliest paintings may provide information on both the pre-European landscape and changes since first settlement. The pictorial record is examined as historical documentation of natural landscape, particularly vegetation, by considering artistic depictions of the region around Sydney, New South Wales, from initial settlement in 1788 to the early 1850s. Critical comment relating to the accuracy of the landscape paintings is examined by reference to the pictures and to Sydney's dramatically varied geology that shaped the landscapes and the vegetation communities that artists painted. There are few detailed studies of Australian landscape painting and much of the critical comment is found to be generalized and only partly accurate, including the persistent criticism that artists misrepresented Australian environments for a multitude of reasons. The pictorial record displays consistent observation of the real variation in landscape character, and in vegetation structure, communities and species. It also appears to provide interesting evidence of differential impact of fire, indicating different pre-settlement fire regimes in different landscape types.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-47
Number of pages23
JournalLandscape Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • Colonial art
  • Fire
  • Sandstone landscapes
  • Shale landscapes
  • Topographic art


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