Ferdinand Bauer's Colourful Fish by wpr1947

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									colourful fish
      Ferdinand Bauer’s


                                   Jennifer Moran discusses the beauty of artist Ferdinand Bauer’s
                                   fish drawings and their scientific value



                                   T
                          above              he fish lying on ice at the market        Australia by Matthew Flinders, Commander
 Ferdinand bauer (1760–1826)                 might shimmer silver or sport a dull      HMS Investigator 1801–1803, a collection
        Goby (favonigobius sp.)
   reproduced from Ferdinand                 red but a fish hauled from the cool       of 52 drawings of fauna of which the marine
        bauer’s Natural History    ocean loses most of its colour—its washes of        creatures comprise 22. The National Library
       Drawings: Taken from the
 Zoological Specimens Collected
                                   yellow or its blue stripes—about ten minutes        of Australia has in its collection the fourth
  on the First Circumnavigation    after it has gasped in the searing air.             of 50 copies of a luxurious facsimile edition,
        of Australia by Matthew       Fish not only give up their colour when they     published in 1997 by Alecto Historical
    Flinders, Commander, HMS
        Investigator, 1801–1803    die, but in life they also switch it on and off     Editions in association with the Natural
     (London: Alecto Historical    in various parts of their body in some kind of      History Museum, London.
   Editions in association with    communication, the intricacies of which we            Bauer’s leatherjackets and mudskippers, his
 the Natural History museum,
                           1997)   have yet to unravel. A fish can change its spots    blue swimmer crabs and butterfly cod sport
             Pictures Collection   right before your eyes, creating a dilemma          their colours as though they were swimming
               nla.pic-vn404104
                                   for an artist, particularly one used to the         around as he drew them. We do know,
      Copyright Natural History
                        museum     exactitude of botanical drawing.                    however, that he worked from specimens
(www.naturalhistoryprints.com)        The click of digital photography or whirr of     caught on the Investigator voyage.
                        right
                                   film can make these changes and particulars           Bauer’s illustration from the field, or
 Ferdinand bauer (1760–1826)       apparent but, at the start of the nineteenth        the beach or boat in the case of his fish,
        Boxfish (anoplocapros      century, an artist wishing to paint a fish had to   was a triumph of organisation and art. In
                      inermis)
   reproduced from Ferdinand       rely on an eye for colour, a good memory and        Peter Watts, Jo Anne Pomfrett and David
       bauer’s Natural History     meticulous methodology. Body shape could
                     Drawings      be preserved after death but markings were
           Pictures Collection
           nla.pic-an14062405      another matter.
     Copyright Natural History        The artist Ferdinand Bauer
                      museum
(www.naturalhistoryprints.com)
                                   (1760–1826), best known for
                                   his botanical drawings,
                                   drew and painted
                                   many fish. Some of
                                   these are collected
                                   in his Natural
                                   History Drawings
                                   Taken from the Zoological
                                   Specimens Collected on the
                                   First Circumnavigation of


8::
Mabberley’s 1997 publication, An                                  gathered together with                   above
Exquisite Eye: The Australian Flora &                              golden bands, was caught at             Ferdinand bauer (1760–1826)
                                                                                                           Butterfly Cod (pterois sp.)
Fauna Drawings 1801–1820 of Ferdinand                              Thirsty Sound, Broad Sound,             reproduced from Ferdinand
Bauer, a description of his practice explains                      Queensland in September 1802.           bauer’s Natural History
                                                                                                           Drawings
how he was able to reproduce his subjects so                 His mudskipper (Periophthalmus sp.), a        Pictures Collection
accurately under trying circumstances.             maudlin-looking fish, large mouthed and with            nla.pic-an14062850
                                                   protruberant eyes perched atop its head, was            Copyright Natural History
                                                                                                           museum
    Bauer made life-size pencil sketches of the    probably collected at Connor Creek, Keppel              (www.naturalhistoryprints.com)
    habit and parts of the plants and animals      Bay in Queensland a month earlier. On
    and numbered them according to a code          that same day, a goby (Favonigobius sp.) was
    of colour shades from a chart which he         collected which Bauer rendered in basic silver
    carried with him, a method he had used         with purple body spots and purplish banding.
    in the Mediterranean when working for          Rainbow colours adorn its fins.
    [Professor John] Sibthorp. Such codes had         What is believed to be a butterfly cod
    been in use for a long time but it was         (Pterois sp.), though it cannot be positively
    Bauer who perfected the technique. The         identified because the finray counts on the
    whereabouts of the code he used on the         body do not correspond with the count of
    Investigator is not known. However,            either of the two fishes it closely resembles,
    one of his earlier codes is preserved in the   was probably collected at Strong Tide Passage,
    Real Jardin Botanico in Madrid. It has 7       Queensland in August 1802. A beautiful
    rows of 20 numbered rectangular coloured       salmon pink with brown, wavy, vertical stripes,
    strips. His later codes must have been         the fish sports large dorsal fin spines, which
    much more elaborate because the Sibthorp       can inflict painful wounds, and other showy,
    drawings have numbers up to 250, and           oversized fins that it uses to shepherd and
    the Australian ones have from 1–999            manipulate its prey. It is one of very few Bauer
    plus added letters. Despite the speed with     drawings to show an anomaly in anatomy.
    which these drawings must have often been         The beauty of Bauer’s drawings is
    executed and annotated with the code, only     complemented by their value to science. Weedy
    rarely are there mistakes in his colouring.    seadragons (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus) were caught
                                                   at King George Sound in Western Australia
And what colours!                                  in December 1801 and Bauer’s image of them
  Bauer’s boxfish (Anoplocapros inermis),          shows a natural oddity—the male carrying
a funeral-rose mauve and grey confection           a clutch of eggs under his tail. The drawings


                                                                                      the national library magazine :: september 2009 ::   9
                         above    include not just the beautifully coloured whole    curator in the court of Prince Wenzel of
  Ferdinand bauer (1760–1826)     fishes but detailed depictions of various parts    Liechtenstein. Ferdinand was one of seven
   Parrotfish (odax ocroptilus)
    reproduced from Ferdinand     of a fish or crab. They were meticulous records    Bauer children, just an infant when Lucas
        bauer’s Natural History   of species when no preserved specimen was          died. The family’s court connections protected
                      Drawings
            Pictures Collection
                                  available. Sir John Richardson, for example,       them and Dr Norbert Boccius, a priest
            nla.pic-an14062871    based the first scientific description of the      and scholar at the court, took an interest
      Copyright Natural History   parrotfish (Odax acroptilus) on Bauer’s drawing.   in the education of the orphaned children,
                       museum
 (www.naturalhistoryprints.com)   No record exists of where Bauer obtained his       particularly in art practice. He gave Bauer a
                                  subject but today it is commonly found on the      commission to paint flower studies when he
                         below    southern coasts of Australia.                      was only 15. By the time Bauer was 20, he
  Ferdinand bauer (1760–1826)
Mudskipper (periophthalmus sp.)      There is no known portrait of Bauer and         was working with his brother Franz on the
    reproduced from Ferdinand     he seems to have left no diary of his journeys     illustrations for Baron Nikolaus von Jacquin’s
bauer’s Natural History Drawing
                                  in Australia. His letters were few—only            Icones Plantarum Rariorum (1781–1793). This
            Pictures Collection
            nla.pic-an14062839    about ten are known to exist. But we do            was followed by an appointment as natural
      Copyright Natural History   know something of the life of this artist who      history painter for Professor John Sibthorp
                       museum
 (www.naturalhistoryprints.com)
                                  remained a bachelor all his life.                  of Oxford with whom Bauer travelled in
                                     Bauer was born in 1760 in Feldsberg, a          the Mediterranean and England, producing
                                  town then in Austria, which in history’s           drawings for the publication Flora Graeca
                                  rearrangement of Europe has become Valtice         (1806–1840).
                                  in the Czech Republic. His father, Lucas              By the time the Flinders expedition was
                                  Bauer, was a botanical artist and a gallery        mooted, Bauer had long experience and
                                                                                     Sir Joseph Banks suggested he should be




 10::
appointed botanical artist. Bauer was 41,        also on his own illustrations, readying them for       below
much older than most of his fellow travellers:   publication. But interest in the Flinders voyage       Ferdinand bauer (1760–1826)
                                                                                                        Weedy Seadragon
Flinders was 27, as was the botanist Robert      had faded and, of Bauer’s more than 2000               (phyllopteryx taeniolatus)
Brown, with whom Bauer was to work closely.      drawings from the Investigator passage, only           reproduced from Ferdinand
                                                                                                        bauer’s Natural History
Nevertheless Bauer was indefatigable, and        about two dozen were published in his lifetime.        Drawings
drew and painted an extraordinary number            Disillusioned, Bauer returned to Austria            Pictures Collection
of plants and animals on the voyage. Flinders    where he died in 1826. His work passed                 nla.pic-an14065162
                                                                                                        Copyright Natural History
honoured Bauer’s contribution by naming          through several hands before ending up                 museum
Cape Bauer in South Australia after the          in museum and gallery collections. The                 (www.naturalhistoryprints.com)
painter, and there are, fittingly, many plants   illustrations published in the Alecto facsimile
named for him.                                   are in the Natural History Museum in London.
   When Flinders set off for England to get         The Alecto Historical Editions website
a replacement boat in 1803, the Investigator     (www.alectouk.com) now showcases some
having proved unsuited to its task and           of Bauer’s illustrations and, though Bauer’s
unsound, Bauer and Brown stayed at Port          drawings of fish were not annotated, the website
Jackson to work on material while waiting        includes notes about each illustration compiled
for Flinders’ return. Bauer travelled to the     from various sources, including An Exquisite Eye
Hunter Valley and to Norfolk Island and          and Alwyne Wheeler and D.T. Moore’s ‘The
continued to draw and paint the fauna and        Animal Drawings of Ferdinand Bauer in the
flora of the colony. Flinders, meanwhile, was    Natural History Museum, London’, Archives of
imprisoned in Mauritius where he was to          Natural History, volume 1, 1994.
remain for several years until his return to
England in 1810. Once it became clear that
the Flinders expedition was over, Bauer and      JENNIFEr mOrAN is a writer and editor for
Brown returned to England in 1805 aboard         several newspapers and journals
the repaired Investigator. They carried with
them many specimens to aid their work back
in England.
   Bauer spent the next few years working with
Brown on illustrations for the Admiralty and




                                                                                  the national library magazine :: september 2009 ::   11

								
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