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Augustus Earle and his Dog, Jemmy

Video clip synopsis – Misadventure turned to good fortune when young English artist Augustus Earle was rescued after being marooned on a remote island and accidentally became the colony’s first trained artist.
Year of production - 2008
Duration - 5min 30sec
Tags - art, Australian History, colonisation, exploration, Indigenous Australia, portraiture, see all tags

play Warning - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers should exercise caution when watching this program as it may contain images of deceased persons.

Augustus Earle and his Dog, Jemmy

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About the Video Clip


From the series Hidden Treasures – Inside the National Library of Australia.

The National Library of Australia is the country’s largest reference library with over nine million items in its collection, including a surprising number of art works. In a new series of Hidden Treasures, Betty Churcher presents an insider’s guide to some of the little known and rarely displayed art treasures held by the National Library. From her unique vantage point, Churcher makes intriguing historical connections between paintings and engravings, photography, manuscripts and artefacts, illustrated journals and diaries. These are fascinating tales about the creative process and the works themselves that offer a tantalising insight into Australia’s culture and heritage.

A Film Australia National Interest Program in association with Early Works. Produced in association with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. With special thanks to the National Library of Australia.

Background Information


Misadventure turned to good fortune when young English artist Augustus Earle was rescued after being marooned on a remote island and accidentally became the colony’s first trained artist. Earle was stranded for nine months with his dog, Jemmy, on an island in the South Atlantic Ocean when his ship sailed without him in March 1824. He filled his time recording life on the island until his art supplies ran out. The artist and his dog appear in many of his island paintings. Earle was eventually picked up by a ship bound for Sydney and during the few years he lived in the colony he became its foremost painter. Included in the National Library’s collection is an 1826 oil portrait of Bungaree, the first Aborigine to circumnavigate Australia.

Classroom Activities

  1. The key images in this episode are the portrait and lithograph of the Aboriginal man, Bungaree.
    1. Describe the way Bungaree is portrayed in the portrait, including his clothing, ornamentation or decorations, pose or stance, and the background.
    2. What impression do you gain of Bungaree? Why do you think you gain that impression—how do each of the elements in the portrait help to create that reaction in the viewer?
    3. What do you think is the main message that the painter, Augustus Earle, is trying to convey in this portrait?
    4. How is this image or impression of Bungaree changed in the lithographs that were created from the portrait?
  2. From the information given to you in the film segment, what would you say were Bungaree’s achievements? Why would these be considered achievements? For example, you might discuss the difficulty that a person might have in trying to live in two different worlds, the Indigenous world and the new one brought in by the settlement of Sydney Cove.
  3. The presenter does not tell us that Bungaree ended his life as a beggar and a drunk. Does this knowledge make any difference to the messages and meanings of the portrait? Explain your views.
  4. Research. The portrait is of a significant figure in Australian colonial history. Research another significant Indigenous figure (such as Jandamara, Yagan, Bennelong) and tell their story. Include in your presentation the nature of their achievements, their role in the period and place where they existed, and the way they have been represented in images.

Further Resources


Go to Screen Australia Digital Learning’s Arts Portal

For more on the life of Bungaree go to the Australian Dictionary of Biography

For more on Augustus Earle go toThe Wandering Artist