Inside the Collection

Botanical illustration from the early Museum

Botanical illustration of 'Tristania laurina'
Botanical illustration of ‘Tristania laurina’ (Swamp Mahogany) by Agard Hagman


This painting is another botanical illustration by Agard Hagman from 1887.

The first curator of the Museum of Applied and Sciences was the botanist Joseph Maiden who later became Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens. In 1887 Australia’s natural resources were little explored. A major focus for the museum during it’s early years was the collection of Australian plants and the investigation of their potential for commercial purposes. During the late 1880s many drawings were commissioned from Agard Hagman.

Not a great deal is known about the artist. Museum records note that he was a was civil engineer who came to Australia from Sweden in 1885 onboard the ship ‘Sorata’. He returned to Sweden in 1891. He is registered as working at Tattersall’s Chambers, Hunter Street in the Sands Directory, 1888. Agard Hagman provided engineering drawings as well as botanical illustrations to the Museum.

A selection of Hagman’s drawings were exhibited at the Colonial International Exhibition, 1888 in Melbourne. A note in the New South Wales Catalogue of Exhibitions states: ‘Each drawing is 3 ft. 3 in by 2 ft 2 in., and is framed and glazed. Scale, three times natural size. In each case the fullest information (in large bold type) is affixed to the drawings themselves. In all cases the drawings have been made from fresh flowering or fruiting specimens, under the immediate supervision of the Curator, who certifies to their botanical correctness’.

This painting shows the species Tristania laurina, and it is titled as a timber tree. This species still has the same scientific name but it’s common name is usually the Water Gum. Today is it widely planted in Australia as an ornamental street tree and garden plant.

Post by Lynne McNairn, Digital Services

Reference: Yesterday’s tomorrows: the Powerhouse Museum and its precursors 1880-2005 by Graeme Davison and Kimberley Webber (eds)


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