The Kongouro from New Holland George Stubbs Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The Kongouro from New Holland, an oil painting that depicts a kangaroo is known to be the first-ever depiction of an animal from Australia in Western Art.

The painting is part of the National Maritime Museum (NMM) collection, in Greenwich, London, England. Joseph Banks commissioned the work, and it is based on an animal's inflated skin that he had collected in 1770 while he was on the east coast of Australia. The painting depicts the kangaroo sitting on a rock; looking over the shoulder of the animal with a backdrop of mountains and trees. This is one of the 2 paintings that the artist didn't paint from a live subject. The painting is a remarkable work since the artist had never seen a real kangaroo in any form apart from inflated skin. In fact, this was the first time that people in Britain saw such a creature.

In 1773, the Society of Artists exhibited the painting in London along with Stubbs' painting of the dingo. Subsequent exhibitions were kept at the Liverpool-based Walker Art Gallery (1951) and the Whitechapel-based Whitechapel Art Gallery (1957). Also, in recent years, the painting has been on view at Palham House when there is a public opening. The painting was bought together with the painting of the dingo at auction for a total amount of AUD 9.3 million by an undisclosed buyer in 2012. The Department of Culture rejected an application to take the portraits to Australia on the grounds of the portraits national importance.

Sir David Frederick Attenborough, a natural historian and English broadcaster led a campaign to make sure the two portraits remain in Britain. He remarked that it was good news that the paintings, which are very important in the zoological discovery history, will remain where they were painted and commissioned. The Australian National Gallery had expressed a very strong desire for purchasing the pictures In November 2013, an announcement was made stating that a 1.5million-pound donation given by the Eyal Ofer & Marilyn Family Foundation is going to enable the NMM in Greenwich to acquire the 2 paintings.

The artist was a secondary figure in the history of British art up to the mid 20th century. Basil Taylor, an art historian, and Paul Mellon, an art collector, both championed Stubbs' work.