Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

SMH celebrates AM’s 190 & Beauty in Science

Elissa Blake, Beauty in Science, Sydney Morning Herald, February 2017

Australia’s Scott sisters were internationally renowned for their superb botanical illustrations. Their work is exhibited at the Australian Museum. To celebrate the museum’s 190th birthday, an exclusive collection of their stunning butterfly and moth illustrations is available to purchase from thestore.com.au/australianmuseum

Harriet and Helena Scott’s exquisite watercolours are aliving legacy.

There is great beauty in science, says Kim McKay, director and chief executive of the Australian Museum.

“People often forget that,” she says. “But when you look at the butterfly and moth paintings by Harriet and Helena Scott, you can’t help but be struck by how true it is.”

The Scott sisters’ work and legacy is celebrated at the Australian Museum in an exhibition devoted to their contribution to early Australian science. Transformations: Art of the Scott Sisters, is a breathtaking display of more than 40 of their exquisite 19th-century watercolours, supported by material drawn from the museum’s collections, much of it on show for the first time.

Born in Sydney in 1830 and 1832 respectively, Harriet (Hattie) and Helena (Nellie) Scott worked at a time when women were largely excluded from the sciences. Yet by their twenties, the sisters were internationally renowned as leading illustrators of Australian flora and fauna, much of it new to a world being rocked from its foundations by the publication in 1859 of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.

The paintings and drawings the Scott sisters made for their father Alexander Walker Scott’s landmark two-volume study Australian Lepidoptera and their Transformations (published in Sydney, 1861), are among the finest of their kind anywhere, McKay says.

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