winter light and French expeditions

This picture of the  Tobin House, one of Adelaide's Art Deco buildings, made whilst I was wandering  along North Terrace in Adelaide's CBD around  5pm. I was enjoying watching the winter light playing across the facades of  the buildings along North Terrace. 

I was on my way to  the opening of Frédéric Mouchet's interesting  exhibition at the State Library of South Australia. The exhibition centred around the South Australia of the French explorers in the  18th and 19th centuries in that Mouchet has retraced their journey around the unexplored coast of Nouvelle Hollande,   including Kangaroo Island, Encounter Bay (Victor Harbor), Spencer Gulf and the Great Australian Bight.

 Nicolas Baudin's  strategic and scientific  expedition  in 1801-1802 was the central French expedition,  and it included  the zoologist François Péron and the botanist Théodore Leschenault de la Tour. Péron was largely responsible for gathering some 100,000 zoological specimens—the most comprehensive Australian natural history collection to date.   Péron's  journal has been published by the Friends of the State Library of South Australia in several volumes.  

Mouchet's photographs were  of the rugged beauty and the isolation of the  coast of southern Australia. They  were  designed to evoke the feeling that Baudin and the other French explorers---six major French expeditions to the Australian coast took place over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries---were imagined to have had whilst  they were charting the waters  of  the southern ocean. 

The book---The Australia of the French Explorers---by Frederic Mouchet and Noeline  Bloomfield ----makes these connections explicit through  drawing a  parallel between Mouchet's  contemporary photographs and the historical drawings and watercolours  made by the artists ----eg.,Nicolas-Martin Petit and Charles-Alexandre Lesueur---- on Baudin's scientific expedition ships (the Géographe and Naturaliste). 

A few  of Pettit's portraits of aboriginal people and  Lesueur's drawings and watercolours of marine life and mammals were shown by the State Library along with detailed charts and topographical  drawings of the coast.  Pettit's portraits were sensitive whilst Lester's watercolours of jelly fish were exquisite. These works of art, rather than documents, have been published along with the maps. 

We are lucky enough in Adelaide to  have an opportunity to see the original sketches and paintings at the South Australian Maritime Museum in late June  2016--- The Art of Science: Baudin’s Voyagers 1800-1804. This is a  picture of southern  Australia before it was Australia, and it was  was initiated by the Museum of Natural History at Le Havre, Baudin’s starting point and the chief repository of his legacy.

 Bouchet's photographs were in the National Geographic style of wilderness photography,  and I found them to be very close to the familiar  tourist aesthetic  that celebrates the  natural beauty of the southern Fleurieu Peninsula and Tasmania. 'Familiar ' in the sense that the images  lacked a sense of the strangeness of this landscape, which is how Baudin's naturalists and artists would have viewed the landscape.