Harcourt Barret ( 1838 - 1904)

Barret was born in England in 1838 and arrived in Australia in 1881. He worked in Adelaide as a chromolithographer for the South Australian Government Printer. He produced a number of maps but his largest body of work was as the lithographer for J.E. Brown’s The Forest Flora of South Australia (1882), he was responsible for transferring the original paintings onto stone and crafting the colour printing.

“Published in nine parts with five prints per issue, The Forest Flora of South Australia was a popular series which became an essential part of any botany enthusiasts library. Once each painting was complete, the works were expertly prepared for lithography by the South Australian Government lithographer, Harcourt Barrett. Barrett was particularly skilled at his craft. Following his departure from this role due to the introduction of photo-lithography, he went on to work as a scientific illustrator and lithographer for the Royal Society of South Australia. Although Rosa Fiveash initialed a number of the images and Barrett’s name was printed on each plate of The Forest Flora of South Australia, neither of the artists were otherwise credited within the publication. Over time it became apparent that Fiveash was receiving an unfair share of the credit compared to Barrett, which prompted the lithographer to write a letter to The Advertiser, setting the record straight:

‘Of [the] 45 plates Miss Fiveash only supplied 32 drawings in watercolour of the centre or main branch only. Miss Camilla Hammond and Mrs. Smart sketched the native cherry, and it was from these sketches that the drawings upon stone were made. The remaining eleven plates and title page, together with all the additional work, consisting of the various woods, barks, seed-vessels, botanical sections, and various details of the flowers, were drawn direct upon the stones from photos and natural specimens wholly and solely by me during the time I held the position of chief lithographer at the Government Printing office.’ “

Reference ‘Capturing Flora – 300 years of Australian Botanical art’, Art Gallery of Ballarat. & Wrigley, J.W. (2013) Eucalypt Flowers, NLA

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