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Australian art


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View from Dunlop Range, near Louth, Darling River (looking south), from the album New South Wales Royal Commission: Conservation of water. Views of scenery on the Darling and Lower Murray during the flood of 1886.



Charles Bayliss

England, Australia

1850 - 1897


Photographers were routinely employed on scientific expeditions during the 19th century. An album of 40 photographs was presented with the 1886 report of the Lyne Royal Commission, but it is known that Bayliss took hundreds of others during the journey.1 Some of Bayliss’s photographs, such as this one, do not appear to serve the immediate purpose of the report. This image of the vastness and emptiness of Australia is related to the problem of water conservation only indirectly. The photograph seems more concerned with articulating a mythology of the bush, a common interest of Australian writers, painters and poets in the last quarter of the 19th century. It probably has direct literary roots and may have been staged to illustrate an outback story of a traveller lost in the bush: ‘Far and wide stretched a stricken land. The glare of a hard and pitiless sky overhead, the infinite vista of salt-bush, brigalow, stay-a-while, and mulga, the creeks only stretches of stone, and no shelter from the shadeless gums – these only meeting his eye.’2

1. Copies of the album are held by the Department of Water Resources and the Mitchell Library of the State Library of New South Wales
2. 1884 report in Jeffcoat K & Byron S 1991, 'Down the Darling: the Charles Bayliss photographs', Department of Water Resources New South Wales, Parramatta p 30

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007




Media category


Materials used

albumen photograph


21.0 x 28.6 cm image/sheet

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Purchased 1984


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Charles Bayliss

Works in the collection


Shown in 5 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 9 publications


Judy Annear, The photograph and Australia, Sydney, Jun 2015, 38 (colour illus.).

Sandra Byron and Kevin Jeffcoat, Down the Darling - The Charles Bayliss Photographs, Sydney, 1991, 30, 31 (illus.).

Robyn Donohue, Arcadia - nineteenth century Australian photography, Sydney, 1998, cover (illus.). no catalogue numbers

Robyn Donohue, Look, 'Arcadia: Nineteenth Century Australian Photography', pg. 22-23, Heidelberg, Oct 1998, 23.

Tom Griffiths, The Australian, 'Legend and lament', pg. 11, Sydney, 10 Mar 1999, 11 (illus.).

Josef Lebovic Gallery, Colonial Photographers, Sydney, 1984. 116

John McDonald, Art of Australia. Vol 1: Exploration to Federation, 'A race of heroes?', pg. 271-314, Sydney, 2008, 294 (colour illus.).

Robert McFarlane, Critic's Choice, Sydney, 1994. no catalogue numbers

Steven Miller, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'In every house, and in every tent', pg.33-51, Sydney, 2007, charles Bayliss.