Augustus Earle
'Bungaree, a native of New South Wales' c. 1826
Rex Nan Kivell collection: National Library of Australia and National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Bungaree, from the Broken Bay area of New South Wales, was the most famous Indigenous Australian in the early nineteenth century. He gained his fame by assisting the colonists and by becoming a leader of the Indigenous people in Sydney until his death in 1830. As a reward for his services, various governors and officers gave Bungaree discarded uniforms and a cocked hat. In 1815 Governor Macquarie decorated Bungaree with a breastplate inscribed with the fictitious title 'Chief of the Broken Bay Tribe'.

In this portrait Earle has depicted Bungaree welcoming strangers to the colony, with Fort Macquarie and Sydney Harbour in the background. He cast Bungaree in the pose of a landowning gentleman, parodying colonial society and emphasising the tragedy of Indigenous peoples' loss of their native land.

Augustus Earle was the most accomplished artist working in New South Wales in the 1820s, and although he only remained in the colony for just over three years, he quickly established himself as Sydney's leading artist. He sometimes depicted his own adventures and included himself in his landscapes, but his main income came from portrait commissions from Sydney's new wealth.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

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