Press releases 2017


More than 300 rarely seen works by the celebrated Austrian botanical artist Ferdinand Bauer come together for the first time at the State Library of NSW on Thursday 16 November 2017.

Bauer’s exquisite pencil sketching, extraordinary colour‐coding system, and pioneering field work – created during Matthew Flinders’ 1801‐1803 circumnavigation of Australia – will be celebrated as part of a unique project embracing both print and digital technology. A lavish book, Painting by Numbers: the Life and Art of Ferdinand Bauer, published by NewSouth Publishing, has been hailed by State Librarian Dr John Vallance as “one of the
finest books to be published by an Australian press.”

This fascinating and little‐known story of Ferdinand Bauer has been brought to life by Professor David Mabberley, one of the world’s leading botanical scholars, in collaboration with the State Library of NSW, the Bodleian Libraries Oxford, the Natural History Museum
London, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the Linnean Society of London, and the Natural History Museum in Vienna.

Launched in tandem is a ground‐breaking website, produced by the State Library’s DX Lab, which contains many previously unpublished works by Bauer and demonstrates Bauer’s
colour‐coding practice. “His mind worked at such a speed that he could remember colours by number, and by the time he reached Australia he had 1000 shades committed to memory,” says Professor Mabberley. Bauer would later finish the works in his studio with watercolours matched to his colour charts.

Visitors to the Painting by Numbers website will be able to view the incredible detail in Bauer’s work, experiment with his signature palettes and explore how he turned his field drawings into fully realised and detailed studio watercolours.

“We have used the latest web technologies to enable Bauer’s annotated drawings to be viewed alongside his finished watercolours for the first time,” says Paula Bray, Head of
State Library’s DX Lab.

Website visitors will be able to search by scientific name, common name, colour or location, and enjoy a deeper understanding of selected works through featured interviews with Professor Mabberley.

Passionflowers, London, 1794, private collection (Sydney)

Red silky oak, 1813-14, Ferdinand Bauer, coloured engraved, London (Illustrationes florae Novae Hollandiae). State Library of NSW.

Rainbow lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus moluccanus), watercolour, Ferdindand Bauer, based on pencil sketch made at Port Philipp (Melbourne), April 1802. Natural History Museum, London.

Christmas spider (Austracantha minax), 1805, field drawing/watercolour, Ferdinand Bauer. Naturhistorisches Museum Wien / Natural History Museum, London


Screenshot der Website