Sometimes I stumble across stuff by mistake. It’s a bit like when you are waiting to get to sleep and your mind wanders from one subject to another and before you know it, you’re thinking of something completely new and forgot how you got there to start with.
I can’t remember why I had gone to the State Library’s website but in the back of my mind there was a definite reason and that is now a lost cause. Anyway, I attended a talk at the Wollongong Gallery on the TAL Dai’ichi Collection (Earl of Derby) that sparked my curiosity. These wonderful albums had been locked away for a long time, like those recesses of the mind. The talk was not only about the volumes but how the State Library of NSW came across them and was able to purchase them.
Walking round the lake this morning it reminded me of the talk and the recording of nature in those early albums. It was a wonderful era where the drawings were so much more than a photo. The initial image replicated in the power point presentation was of a giant duck standing webbed over a tiny painted landscape. It made me want to paint huge cormorants over tiny lakes. It was though that the watercolours were quite often done on return from the antipodes and that some of the works looked Indian in nature.
I also loved the stories of the collectors of the images, sometimes members of the Linnane Society who would collect and treasure new and exciting images of exotic creatures. Some of the most beautiful works were of fishes and the colours were fresh and amazing. Following the talk we were able to gather in close around the table where two volumes were gently turned page by page by devoted white-gloved conservators. The delicacy of watercolours means these works are rarely shown. It was a rare privilege to see these giant ducks in this little place.