John Hunter’s Birds and Flowers of New South Wales
The watercolours of Captain John Hunter (1737–1821) form one of the earliest European records of Australian birds, and one of the first collections of drawings made during the European settlement of the country.
Hunter’s sketchbook, Birds & Flowers of New South Wales Drawn on the Spot in 1788, ’89 & ’90, contains 100 watercolours of animals, birds, fish and flowers, and four portraits of the region’s Indigenous people.
Hunter arrived with the First Fleet in 1788 as second-in-command to Governor Arthur Phillip, later serving as the colony’s governor from 1795 to 1800. He conducted the first surveys of Sydney Harbour, Botany Bay and Broken Bay.
In his Historical Journal, Hunter wrote: ‘there are a great variety of birds in this country; all ... are cloathed with the most beautiful plumage that can be conceived; it would require the pencil of an able limner [artist] to give a stranger an idea of them, for it is impossible by words to describe them.’
In providing backing for several exploratory expeditions, Hunter was associated with the European discovery of the koala, platypus and wombat, and was the first European to draw the latter two.