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This is the Most Enduring Inspiration to Keep You Painting

January 24, 2015

Australia is a young nation

Wherever your Homeland, your country's National Day kindles patriotic emotions. Artists in every place and era express these feelings in painting, music and poetry.

Patriotism means a simple, heartfelt appreciation of Homeland. It's a mindset distinct from jingoism: that extreme bias against anyone whose values are different.

  • Normal, healthy people value all children. Yet, our own must come first. It's the same with our Homeland.
  • For artists, the impulse to celebrate the culture, people and landscapes of your country can prove the most enduring inspiration.
  • Your art will feed itself in serving this idea. Painting after painting springs from this over-arching influence: love of your own place, fascination with its folklore.

Painters who dedicated their art to this impulse include names famous in the world history of Art. On Australia Day, I'm sure you'll understand if I list a few countrymen here.

  • Tom Roberts, Frederick McCubbin and Arthur Streeton, founders of the 'Heidelberg School' brought a form of Impressionism to Australian art.
  • David Davies, Elioth Gruner and Hans Heysen freighted their landscapes with a spiritual sense of Nature as a force acting on the Australian psyche.
  • Russel Drysdale, Sidney Nolan, Hugh Ramsay, William Dobell and the great draughtsman Lloyd Rees,led the way prior to the advent of Abstract styles in mid-20th century Australian art.

My country celebrates Australia Day on 26 January each year to commemorate the landing of the First Fleet. 227 years of history makes a brief record in comparison with most nations. We are a young nation, built on the planet's oldest dry land, shared with descendants of the world's most ancient people.

The Aboriginal population is estimated at 300,000 when the First Fleet arrived. Their place of origin, and the routes used by their ancestors to reach Australia, are yet to be confirmed. Scientists generally agree to date their arrival around 40,000 years ago.

  • Discoveries in caves across this vast island continent show rock art recognised as the oldest paintings on Earth. The artists' purpose is unknown but their present-day descendants continue to maintain and refresh the images of Dreamtime.

Fewer than 2,000 people formed the first non-Aboriginal population of Australia. They arrived in October 1786, as crew or passengers aboard 11 ships of the British Royal Navy.

Passengers included 700 British convicts sentenced to exile on a distant continent in the Southern Pacific. Only 16 years earlier, legendary explorer Captain James Cook charted and claimed this new territory for the British Crown.

Fare-paying settlers on board came from the Old World of Europe and the New World of the Americas. They aspired to prosperity and freedom greater than they could expect in their countries of origin. These pioneers established farms, small industry, schools and embryo-institutions of Science and the Arts.

  • Out of this multi-cultural beginning, the colony progressed from a penal settlement to modern nationhood. In 1900, Federation sign-posted Australia's independence from Britain.

All Australians honour those nations everywhere who act with goodwill to achieve the goal of democratic freedom for all people.©Dorothy Gauvin

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