For our Christmas card this year we’ve looked to a beautiful exhibition held at the Museum of Sydney: The Artist & the Botanical Collector – The lost works of Lovegrove & Bäuerlen [13 August – 20 November, 2016].
‘Christmas bells’ and mistletoe
As European traditions were adapted to a new climate, plants such as native mistletoe, and flowers that featured a red and green combination quickly became new seasonal favorites. Along with ‘Christmas bush’ (Ceratopetalum gummiferum), ‘Christmas bells’ (Blandfordia grandiflora) was picked in such huge quantities that it almost disappeared from the Sydney basin. There are accounts of carts and rowboats en route to the Sydney markets so laden with flowers and greenery that their drivers and rowers couldn’t be seen!
These watercolours, of a native mistletoe [above] and nodding ‘Christmas bells’ [below] are two of fifty two works by amateur artist Gertrude Lovegrove, created in the late 1880s and early 1890s. Many of these were intended for publication in a part work entitled ‘The wild flowers of New South Wales’, with text written by botanical collector William Bauerlen (1840-1917).
Along with Lovegrove’s paintings, the exhibition also featured a series of greeting postcards by the Sydney printing firm Turner & Henderson, and dated December 1880. Featuring native wildflowers, they followed a series printed the previous year that are considered the first published Australian Christmas cards with specifically Australian subjects . Here you can see one of the cards, which were initially printed blank, and the same card from the collection at Rouse Hill House to which a Christmas message has been added:
Here are other cards from the series. Merry Christmas from Jacqui, Scott and all our guest writers at The Cook and the Curator!
 Exhibition curator and Head of Collections & Access at Sydney Living Museums, Megan Martin, notes that “The first series, registered under the NSW Copyright Act on 20 November 1879 as ‘Australian Floral Cards’, are generally considered to have been the first published Australian Christmas cards with specifically Australian subjects. The first series were small cards printed in an oblong format around 7×14 cm in size. We know from Turner & Henderson’s advertisements in the Sydney press that the series was based on paintings by Helena Forde, nee Scott (1832-1910), one of the best known of Australian-born artists and natural history illustrators in the second-half of the nineteenth century. The 1880 series were ‘drawn and coloured by Miss Scott’ – Harriet Scott (1830-1907), Helena’s sister.”