Burke and Wills: The Art of Science
Science assists us to understand the world. Art assists us to understand ourselves. The two forms of expression have a common foundation in creative exploration, interrogation, research, development, and documentation.
In this story we look at where science becomes art, where art comments on and utilizes science, and at how scientific processes have changed over the years, often becoming increasingly specialized.
Ludwig Becker was the artist, naturalist, and geographer on the 1860 expedition. Like many early immigrants to Australia he tried his luck at various pursuits, working as a gold miner, a painter of miniatures, and as a writer on scientific subjects. He also produced a humorous cartoon strip Ein Australisch’ Lied (An Australian Song) on the experiences of being a German immigrant to Australia.
Becker was born in Darmstadt, Germany, and died with two other members of Burke and Wills supply party at a camp on the western bank of the Koorliatto Waterhole, Bulloo River, in 1861.
He left a legacy of beautiful sketches and paintings, created for scientific purposes, and to document the expedition as cameras were cumbersome and not in widespread use.
A selection of Becker’s works that crossover art and science are presented here, alongside screen prints and etchings by Leslie Sprague and Ben Beeton that reflect and comment on Becker’s work.
As with the 1860 expedition, the Burke and Wills Environmental Expedition (BWEE) includes scientists and artists, though they tend to work in one capacity as opposed to both - increased specialization perhaps resulting from dramatic increases in the amount of knowledge available, and access to it.
As the BWEE progresses, we will talk with the artists and scientists about their methods and approaches to their work, how they view the history and development of their fields, and whether they see value in the nexus between art and science.
The Darling Pea Swainsonia greyana
Long haired or plague rat
The doctors and the artists tent.
Application – Ludwig Becker
Towards base camp
Two explorers with reports about life on a sand hill
Environmental Expedition Mission
Burke and Wills Environmental Expedition Artwork Melbourne to Menindee
Burke and Wills Environmental Expedition Artwork Menindee to Coopers Creek
Becker and Burke
Ben’s Ammonite Discovery
The Aussie Accent
Story education resources
Education Museum Victoria: Drawing on Nature
This education kit describes a range of art activities inspired by objects found in nature.
The kit seeks to encourage and inspire people of all ages to engage with natural science and their local environment through art activities. Participants will be able to closely investigate specimens they gather themselves, and to explore a range of drawing techniques, including some used by scientists and scientific illustrators in museums. It is suitable for both adults and children.