‘Iron in the mind’
Out of Australia: Prints and Drawings from Sidney Nolan to Rover Thomas
by Stephen Coppel
British Museum, £25 pb, 240 pp, 9780714126722
The British Museum’s connection with Australia goes right back to 29 April 1770, when Captain Cook landed at the place he called Botany Bay because of the large number of plant specimens gathered there by Joseph Banks, one of the Museum’s most influential early trustees. As a polyglot public institution dedicated by Act of Parliament (1753) to allowing any citizen to study and understand the whole world, past and present, the British Museum was a magnet for generations of Australian colonists visiting and revisiting the imperial capital, especially artists. This was as true for Arthur Streeton, Fred McCubbin, George Lambert, Bertram Mackennal, and Rupert Bunny as it was much later for Sidney Nolan, Fred Williams, Brett Whiteley, and many other twentieth-century Australian artists. No doubt it will continue to be true of those members of future generations of Australians who visit London.