National Museum of Australia

Art of Science: Take a 200-year voyage into Australia's past

IT WAS a different time. A different age. A different Australia.

But now you are invited to step back in time and experience the raw beauty of our country's natural history at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

The Art of Science: Baudin's Voyagers 1800 - 1804 will transport visitors 200 years into the past through a series of stunning watercolour paintings created by French artists Charles Alexandre-Lesueur and Nicolas-Martin Petit.

The duo accompanied Nicholas Baudin on his scientific expedition to map an unknown Australia in the early 1800s.

"These extraordinary works provide rare insights into life in Australia before European settlement and I am excited to be able to share them with visitors," National Museum director Dr Mathew Trinca said.

The paintings capture a rare view of Australia's native fauna, with Baudin's bold, three-year expedition returning with over 100,000 specimens and having discovered more than 2,500 species.

National Museum curator Cheryl Crilly was amazed how the works - the result of a partnership between the Natural History Museum, Le Havre, France, and six Australian museums - have retained their brilliance over the centuries.

"The anatomy of a starfish, the quills of a 'silky echidna' and the fine feathers of a kingfisher are sketched and painted in precise detail, while irritable and ferocious anthropomorphic fish startle and amuse," Ms Crilly said.

The exhibition also showcases Baudin's personal journal, alongside beautiful coloured plates from the first edition copy of the official account of the expedition, Voyage de Decouvertes aux Terres Australes.

The Art of Science: Baudin's Voyagers 1800 -1804 runs from March 30 until June 24, 2018.

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