The expanded field of the picturesque: contested identities and empire in Sydney Cove 1794
Sydney-Cove I794 is a typical late eighteenth-century English picturesque landscape painting (plate IV). Still under the spell of neo-classical formulas rather than responding to the more expressive styles that were beginning to appear in English painting, it asserts an aristocratic authority on the pleasant scene. A path winds along the cove towards a peaceful village in the middle distance. Overlooking the cove is a large manor house with fields under cultivation and parkland spreading behind it. Framing the scene are trees and fallen logs. On the sunlit path that emerges from the shadowy foreground stand two elegantly dressed men conversing. If not for their uniforms and the two large sailing ships flying the British ensign moored in the cove, who would guess that this was not a 'landscape of property' but the notorious penal colony of New South Wales, which was as far from England's gentle green fields as you could get.
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