Topographical Pictures sales feature the paintings of western artists active in the Americas, Africa, Asia and Australasia, works dating from the great ages of exploration, trade and empire to modern times. The annual sale presents pictures, watercolours, drawings, prints and photographs, historic visions of now long lost worlds, captured at momentous times of discovery, settlement, colony, and emergent nationhood. Artists include professional painters attached to voyages, expeditions and embassies, naval and military draughtsmen on overseas stations, surveys and campaigns, itinerants and settlers in foreign lands. The most sought after images are from Hodges and Webber in the Pacific, Krieghoff in Canada, Rugendas in Central and South America, Brunias and Cazebon in the West Indies, Baines in southern Africa, Chinnery and the China Trade artists on the China Coast, the Daniells in India, Glover, von Guerard and Martens in Australia, Strutt and Goldie in New Zealand.
The department also sells important works and collections in this field by private treaty, recent such sales led by the sale of John Webber’s Poedua [Poetua], daughter of Oreo, chief of Ulaietea, one of the Society Isles to the National Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in 2010, and the historic New South Wales Drawings to the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney, in 2011 for a multi-million pound sum. 2015 saw the artwork by Thomas Baines from Augustus Gregory’s North Australian Expedition finally shipped to Australia after protracted negotiations over its sale and export. The year also saw further notable private sales including a portrait of William Bligh sold to the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, and Captain Scott’s ‘lost’ negatives from his last expedition sold to the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge. Finally, one of the last great New Zealand colonial paintings to remain in private hands, William Strutt’s View of Mount Egmont, Taranaki, New Zealand, taken from New Plymouth, with Maoris driving off settlers’ cattle (1861) was sold by the department in conjunction with a New Zealand agent to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington to join John Webber’s masterpiece.