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Representing the Bunya Pine

  • Glenn Cooke


The most popular painting in the Queensland Art Gallery Collection is R. Godfrey Rivers Under the jacaranda 1903. The blaze of the tree's mauve so dominates the canvas that the figures of Rivers and his fiancée taking tea under its shade appear quite secondary. It is, in essence, a portrait of the tree. The scale of this painting is quite exceptional but during the twentieth century the striking colour of the jacaranda inspired a number of artists, Charles Lancaster in particular. The striking cone-shaped canopy of the bunya pine is as commanding in its formality as the jacaranda is in its colour, yet where are the equivalent paintings of this tree? They are scarce indeed.



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1 Martens also sketched some of the local plant oddities such as the Bottle pine 1851 (Queensland Art Gallery) and Grass trees Dec, 24 1851 (Mitchell Library, Sydney).

2 In 1871 Marianne North visited the United States, Canada and Jamaica; in 1875-77, she crossed the American continent on her way to Japan, returning home via Sarawak, Java and Sri Lanka; and in 1878-79 she travelled to India. After her Australian travels North continued on to South Africa in 1882, the Seychelles in 1883 and Chile in 1884 where she painted a forest of monkey puzzle trees Araucaria araucana, the bunya pine's equivalent. Ill health prevented her further travels.

3 Ponsonby, Laura, Marianne North at Kew Garden (Exeter: Webb & Bower, 1990), 77.

4 Marianne North Gallery Catalogue (Kew: Royal Botanic Gardens), 116. North then proceeds to briefly describe the Bunya festival of the Aborigines. The Bunya Mountains was being logged when she visited and, consequently, had suffered extensively before the area was declared a National Park on 30 July 1908.

6 Ecological images from the Len Webb Collection, Griffith University Library; M. E. White The Greening of Gondwana (French's Forest: Reed, 1986), 196.

7 The Bunya Mountains National Park, Department of Forestry, Queensland.

8 John Oxley Library, Brisbane Bunya Mountains, 1911, 08467110, Neg. no. 76464.

9 Francis, W. D., Australian Rainforest Trees (Canberra: Australian Government Printing Service, 1981). Included inside on page 62 is a photograph of a spindly, free standing Bunya pine at Imbil. Obviously the surrounding forest had been cleared. The bunya pine develops its finest form as a specimen tree.

10 Boland, D. J. et al. , Forest Trees of Australia (Melbourne: Thomas Nelson and CSIRO, 1984), 43; Wrigley, J. W. Fagg, Murray, Australian Native Plants 4th ed. (Melbourne: Reed, 1996), 502; W.G. Sheat and Schofield, The Complete A-Z of Gardening in Australia (French's Forest: National Book Publisher, 1995), 311; The Ultimate Australian Gardening Book (Milson Point: Random House, 1994), 250.

11 Williams, J. B. et al. , Trees and Shrubs in Rainforests of New South Wales and Southern Queensland (Armidale: Botany Dept., University of New England, 1984); Marion Westmacott's illustrations in Leonard Cronin, Key Guide to Australian Trees (Chatswood: Reed, 1988, reprint 1995); J. Hauser and J. Blok, Fragments of Green (Brisbane: Australian Rainforest Conservation Society, 1998).

12 Pers. comm. Sue Abbey, University of Queensland Press, Brisbane, October 2002.

13 Letter to James Wieneke, Moreton Galleries Files, Queensland Art Gallery Research Library, Brisbane.

14 Durack, Noni King, Pamela, Downs Artists: a Changing Landscape, (Toowoomba: Darling Downs Institute Press, 1985), 23.

15 Davidson, Kate, Garden of Earthy Delights: the Work of Fiona Hall, (Canberra: Australian National Gallery, 1992), 18.

16 Prunster, Ursula, Shay Docking: the Landscape as Metapho, (French's Forest: AH & AW Reed, Sydney, 1983), 71.

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Representing the Bunya Pine

  • Glenn Cooke


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