Colonial Fine Art Exhibition: Exhibition of Australian and New Zealand, American & Canadian Oil Paintings and Water Colour Drawing, Burlington Gallery, London, under the patronage of Sir Saul Samuel KCMG, between 1882-1886, cat. 16, titled Big one Corroboree\
A indefatigable traveller, the artist, illustrator and printmaker Edward Roper spent extended periods of his life in both Canada and Australia, with periodic returns to England and a visit to New Zealand in 1873. Various exhibitions and publication from these journeys saw him elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in 1889.
His Australian sojourns were in the mid-1850's and early 1870's, and while resident here he not only illustrated topical subjects for newspapers and periodicals, but also sketched a variety of typical-exotic colonial scenes, including kangaroo and emu hunting, gold prospecting, tree felling, cattle yarding, bullock driving and picnicking in a fern gully. These field studies provided the core imagery for Roper's entries in later, metropolitan exhibitions, notable Exhibition of Australian and New Zealand, American and Canadian Oil Painting and Water Colour Drawings (Burlington gallery, London, 1886), and the Exhibition of Pictures of Our Colonies (Great Assembly Hall, London, 1893).
The present group of works is representative of Roper's broad geographical interests and of his amiable brand of ethnography.
This work was described in the catalogue as 'a festival amongst the Australian Blacks', but the subject has not been specifically identified. In broad outline Roper's watercolour is fairly typical of nineteenth century representations of corroborees, with the dance taking place in a fire-lit clearing and with both Indigenous and non-Indigenous spectactors in the foreground. The broad general location can be suggested, however. Roper is known to have spent time in the Wimmera district - Ararat, Stawell and the Grampians appear in several titles - and the knob-ended 'leangle' club held by one of the figures on the left is a weapon peculiar to the West Victorian tribes.
Black painted plain timber frame, with gold mount under glass. This work appears to have not been laid down. But has been hinged to the mount. Foxing across picture surface. Overall the work has faded, consistent with the works age. "In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."