Bauer’s Banksia

Free settlers after six months at sea appreciated the unique Australian landscape and flora on their arrival. Trees such as the Eucalyptus Pruinosa, or Silver Box were more than exotic. Back in England Sir Joseph Banks employed at Kew Gardens a botanical artist of consummate skill, Austrian Ferdinand Bauer who stayed there for fifty years. He travelled to Australia in the Investigator expedition commanded by Matthew Flinders, advising Banks in 1803 that he had ‘sketches of plants above one thousand and of animals two hundred’. The genus Eucalyptus gave him plenty to work with as it has over 500 species, confined with a few exceptions, to Australia. He completed drawings like the Banksia coccinea for his Illustrationes Florae Novae Hollandiae, published in 1813. They provide us with an important record of colonial times and an insight into why he has been referred to as ‘the Leonardo of natural history painting’.

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