Introduction to Australian colonial art
What was the colonial art period in Australia?
The colonial period of Australian history began with the first settlement of Australia. Governor Phillip claimed the land as a British colony when he landed at Sydney Cove on Saturday 26 January 1788.
The Founding of Australia. By Capt. Arthur Phillip R.N. Sydney Cove, Jan. 26th 1788
original [oil] sketch  by Algernon Talmage R.A. (State Library of NSW)
The colonial period officially ended with Federation on Tuesday 1 January 1901 when Australia was born as a nation. For definition purposes, however, the transition from colonial art ended earlier with the appearance of what is called the Heidelberg School of painters from 1886. It was at this time that artists began to paint in a self-consciously Australian manner and in correspondence with Australia's growing sense of identity and nationhood.
This web site divides colonial art into three sections.
Precolonial - Australian prehistory, discovery and pre-colonial art up till 1788
Early colonial art - from 1788 to about 1860
Late colonial art - 1860s to the beginnings of the Heidelberg School in the 1880s
Like most histories, Australian colonial art is best understood chronologically and newcomers should start with the first section, the Precolonial period.
Creating Australia: 200 years of art 1788-1988. (1988) (out of print.)
Bonyhady, Tim (1987) The colonial image, Australian painting 1800-1880
Bonyhady, Tim (1985) Images in opposition: Australian landscape painting 1801-1890
Hughes, Robert (1970) The art of Australia
Smith, Bernard (1979) (2nd ed.) Documents on art and taste in Australia. The colonial period 1770-1914