Pen & ink drawing with a central coloured oval photograph of a young girl…
Pen & ink drawing with a central coloured oval photograph of a young girl

21st July 1875.

Pen drawing, signed at bottom 'Helena Forde delt. 21 July 1875'; on thin card with an embossed stamp of [G]oodall's Bristol Board. 380 x 310 mm, backed onto board; the drawing surrounding an oval hand-painted photograph of a young girl, 73 x 56 mm,

An Australian natural history cornucopia

A charming original natural history painting by Helena Forde (née Scott, 1832-1910). Helena and Harriet Scott were the foremost natural science painters in New South Wales from 1850 until 1900: "true artists and naturalists of note" as described by Rose Docker of the Australian Museum. Through prodigious talent, the two sisters became highly skilled artists, natural history illustrators and specimen collectors, shining in what was essentially a male domain in 19th-century Australia. With the guidance of their Hunter Valley neighbour, S. T. Gill, the sisters also became accomplished lithographers.

A charming original natural history painting by Helena Forde (née Scott, 1832-1910). Helena and Harriet Scott were the foremost natural science painters in New South Wales from 1850 until 1900: "true artists and naturalists of note" as described by Rose Docker of the Australian Museum. Through prodigious talent, the two sisters became highly skilled artists, natural history illustrators and specimen collectors, shining in what was essentially a male domain in 19th-century Australia. With the guidance of their Hunter Valley neighbour, S. T. Gill, the sisters also became accomplished lithographers.

Both Helena and Harriet were educated by their father, Alexander Walker Scott, first in Sydney and later on their father's estate, Ash Island. A visiting Ludwig Leichhardt had observed in 1842 "…it is a remarkably fine place, not only to enjoy the beauty of nature, a broad shining river, a luxuriant vegetation, a tasteful comfortable cottage with a plantation of orange trees, but to collect a great number of plants which I had never seen before… Climbing Polypodium, the Aerostichum growing on the trees, a great number of creepers, the nettle Tree, the Caper, the native Olive and many others".

This picture captures the exotic abundance of Ash Island with wallabies, cockatoos and water birds in an idealised botanical paradise of ferns, water lilies and native gums, all set within a finely drawn pen border. The identification of the sitter is not confirmed, but the slight chin line, sculptured nose and soulful eyes suggest the young girl is of the Scott family; such features can be seen in the photograph of Helena held in the collections of the Australian Museum.

Helena, still a young woman on the death of her father as well as her husband Edward Forde, was forced to seek commissions for her economic survival. During the 19th century Helena and Harriet "executed almost all the art work for scientific literature in New South Wales..." (Australian Museum). Commissions came from the leading families, Macleay, Macarthur and Mort to name just a few, and the extensive Scott family archives are now held in the Australian Museum and the State Library of New South Wales. Original paintings by either Helena or Harriet are rarely seen on the market.

As one of Australia's earliest professional female artists, this beautifully drawn work illustrates both Helena's outstanding artistic competence and deep knowledge of Australia's exotic natural history.

Price (AUD): $5,850.00  other currencies     Ref: #4504874

Condition Report