University Of Tasmania

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(Dis)regarding the Savages: terra nullius in Tasmanian colonial art

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-24, 20:35 authored by Greg LehmanGreg Lehman
The idea of ‘European vision’ and its influence on the perception of native peoples in the South Pacific was established by the great Australian art historian Bernard Smith. Central to Smith’s analysis is the concept of the Noble Savage. This paper briefly explores some origins of the idea of Noble Savagery and argues that particular iterations of the trope became central to the visual representation of Tasmanian Aborigines in ethnographic and colonial art. In what was perhaps the ultimate disregard of Tasmanian Aboriginal people in the process of British colonisation, early depictions of Van Diemen’s Land almost completely excised Aboriginal presence from the landscape, presaging a campaign of extermination and exile by picturing an empty land decades before administrative measures were taken to physically remove the First Tasmanians from their country.



Aboriginal Leadership


University of Melbourne

Place of publication


Event title

Colonialism and its Narratives: rethinking the colonial archive in Australia conference

Event Venue

Mebourne, Australia

Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Understanding Australia’s past