State Library of NSW
Sponsored by Anne Sullivan
The 1860–61 exploration led by Robert O’Hara Burke and William John Wills is one of the most famed events in Australian colonial history. The expedition of 19 men set out to cross the Australian continent — from Melbourne in the south, to the Gulf of Carpentaria in the north — an approximate distance of 3250 km.
Burke and Wills are depicted as arriving at Flinders River healthy and buoyant, pointing to their destination of the open sea beyond, which they never reached. Edward Greig’s large oil painting was one of the few to portray the explorers as triumphant rather than focusing on their deaths at Cooper Creek. Painted in the immediate aftermath of the expedition, it was a rare example of a colonial artist turning a major contemporary event into a celebratory history painting.
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