Reframing Darwin

evolution and art in Australia

Developed and curated by celebrated scholar and art historian Professor Jeanette Hoorn from the University of Melbourne, the show traces Darwin’s impact from the voyage of HMS Beagle to contemporary engagements with ideas of the post-Darwinian body. The exhibition offers a tangible vision of Sydney and Bathurst as Darwin encountered it on his arrival.

Art Exhibition previously on at Ian Potter Museum of Art in Flinders Lane precinct, Victoria, Australia.
From Wednesday 12 August 2009 to Sunday 01 November 2009

Aboriginal head - Charlie Turner 1892 image

Published by Ian Potter Museum of Art on Friday 06 March 2009.
Contact the publisher.

Re-imagined through the artworks of Conrad Martens, Augustus Earle and Syms Covington—Darwin’s friends and companions aboard the Beagle—the exhibition offers a visual panorama of the material history as well as the artistic legacy left by Darwin’s visit to Australia.

Taking up the thematic thread of Darwinian evolution, the exhibition moves to an exploration of the impact of Darwin’s theory on nineteenth-century artists, and in particular the lasting legacy of Darwin in Melbourne. With the publication of On the origin of species in 1859, Darwin was revealed to a global community as the century’s foremost scientific mind. Following in the historical wake of the revolutionary implications of Darwin’s publication, the exhibition brings together rare and never before seen works of art from more than twenty-five institutions and private collectors across Australia and unites them with the local histories and stories of this great thinker’s impact on nineteenth-century Australian artistic, scientific and intellectual life. Artists Thomas Bock, Louisa Anne Meredith and John Gould in Tasmania, join with the University of Melbourne’s Baldwin Spencer, Melbourne artist Tom Roberts and those involved in the ‘Gorilla debates’ then being waged amongst Melbourne’s intelligentsia, to explore the impact on nineteenth-century artistic practice of the vexed question raised by Darwin of the nature of human origins and the evolution of species.

In an entirely unique innovation, the exhibition concludes by linking historical and contemporary artworks to this shared thematic tradition. Through the work of contemporary Australian artists, the exhibition extends the legacy of Darwinian thinking to a consideration of pressing contemporary questions on the nature of genome technology, paradise engineering, the continuing significance of natural selection, and our contemporary relationship to notions of a ‘natural’ body. Offering a means of generating dialogue between different times and places, artists, and artworks, Charles Darwin in Australia seeks to challenge and reveal the changing nature of artistic engagements with Darwin’s works in Australia.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a major book published by the Miegunyah Press.