Influence spotting is one of the major preoccupations of traditional art history. Important and necessary though the practice may be, I sometimes suspect that it is employed to keep art history the preserve of the specialist and to deny access to the general reader. How refreshing, then, to be confronted with a scholarly Australian art history book that explores the artists’ subject matter and its local context rather than the derivation of the artists’ styles.
In Images In Opposition, Tim Bonyhady chooses to interpret the history of colonial art from the beginning of the nineteenth century until the formation of the Heidelberg School in the 1880s in terms of a number of competing images of the landscape: an arcadian landscape peopled by the Aborigines; a pastoral arcadia which usually deliberately excludes the Aborigines; the untamed wilderness; the familiar countryside captured by Louis Buvelot; the melancholy landscape; and the contrasting brilliant sunlit landscapes and subdued twilight scenes portrayed by the Heidelberg artists. In the process, Bonyhady not only gives us the most perceptive treatment to date· of individual artists such as John Glover and W.C. Piguenit, but also raises for discussion major issues in colonial landscape painting.