The early reception of Henry Lawson's work saw both the work and the artist produced as the Nation on the basis of a narrative gaze which eschewed imaginative embellishments of its object. Lawson's objective, unemotional, and realistic treatment of typically Australian scenes in the 1890s were celebrated as a National art and then transposed into a National knowledge. This process was part of a direct contestation of Imperial authority as it was deployed through another set of knowledge which produced the country as a colony of the Empire. According to one reviewer, Lawson's art 'throws a strong vivid flashlight upon Australian life, and the literary photographs ... which are thus presented to mind, must do much to correct false and create fresh impressions of Australian life among all who are amiably or earnestly interested in learning what our National Characteristics are and towards what they may be tending.'
Lee, Christopher, What Colour are the Dead? Madness, Race and the National Gaze in Henry Lawson's 'The Bush Undertaker', Kunapipi, 13(3), 1991.