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By the 1840s Aboriginal peoples’ customary ways of life had been significantly disrupted by European expansion. Conflict was endemic on the frontiers, while communities living amongst settlements faced many challenges. Yet at the same time, a number of European artists, such as Thomas Balcombe, began to paint Aboriginal people hunting or fishing, engaged in traditional activities and cultural practices, unaffected by European influences. They are idealised and heroic, ignoring the reality of their experiences.
Balcombe, who was exhibiting widely in Sydney in the 1840s and 1850s, made a number of paintings of Aboriginal people engaged in traditional lifestyles, which he contributed to local art unions, or raffles. These paintings were widely praised by local critics.