Australian Museum celebrates legacy of two of our great scientific illustrators in stunning exhibition Transformations: Art of the Scott Sisters.

23 January 2017, Sydney: In celebration of its 190th anniversary, the Australian Museum (AM) – the nation’s first museum – presents exquisite 150 year old illustrations from two of Australia’s most prominent 19th century natural history artists, sisters Helena and Harriet Scott, from 7 February – 25 June, 2017.

Transformations: Art of the Scott Sisters features more than 40 delicate watercolours, rarely-seen notebooks, handwritten manuscripts and letters, as well as large animated projections of butterflies and moths based on the original illustrations of Harriet (Hattie) and Helena (Nellie) Scott.

Kim McKay AO, Australian Museum Director and CEO, the first woman to hold the role in the AM’s history, said Hattie and Nellie Scott exuded wit, intelligence and scientific expertise at a time when these qualities were largely attributed solely to men.

“The sisters were incredibly talented and determined to make a difference, flying in the face of gender norms of the time, yet they were unable to study science formally at Sydney University as they had wished,” she said. “Their work at the Australian Museum in the 1850’s to 1870’s provided them with an outlet for their extraordinary talents, having been taught the techniques to paint flora and fauna by their father, A.W Scott, who was also an artist and scientist. He shared with them the scientific skills to observe, collect and record behavioural and distribution data,” she said.

Paintings created by the sisters between1846 and 1851 for their father’s landmark publication Australian Lepidoptera and their Transformations – depicting caterpillars in life-like poses, gorgeous butterflies and native flowers – are considered to be among their finest work, and are still used by scientists today.

The success of the Lepidoptera opened many doors for the sisters. Over the following decades they would produce most of the art for science publications in Sydney, including then-curator of the AM Gerard Krefft’s Snakes of Australia (1869), Australian Fossil Remains (1870) and Mammals of Australia (1871).

Australian Museum Entomologist, Derek Smith said the sisters’ work had been incredibly valuable to generations of scientists.

“The Scott sisters were among the first to illustrate the life stages of Australian moths and butterflies. They were meticulous and understood the biology of their subjects in great detail,” Smith said. 

Visitors to Transformations: Art of the Scott Sisters are invited to turn back the pages and discover the captivating story of these two extraordinary women, whose love of nature and tremendous skill in rendering its beauty enabled them to distinguish themselves amid the male-dominated world of 19th century science.

Transformations: Art of the Scott Sisters
7 February – 25 June 2017, 9.30-5pm daily.
Entry included with General Admission.

Australian Museum’s 190th Anniversary

In 2017, the Australian Museum (AM) celebrates 190 years, marking its significant role as the nation’s first museum. In the lead up to its bicentenary, the AM is embarking on major transformation plans to secure its place as the leading natural science and culture museum in the region. Learn more about the AM’s Master Plan.

As part of the 190th celebrations, the AM invites everyone to spend their birthday with us for free. Claim a free entry on your birthday by registering online.

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Claire Vince | Media & Communications Advisor | M 61 468 726 910