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Sunday 5 - Sunday 19 August, 10am - 4pm Daily

Harvest by Charlotte Thodey and Friends

Harvest by Charlotte Thodey and Friends is a wonderfully inspiring art exhibition showcasing fruit and vegetables in a most appropriate location. As J.H. Maiden, Director of the Royal Botanic Garden from 1896 - 1926 said 'In no other part of the world can we point to a spot and say, "Here is the site of the beginning of the horticulture and agriculture of a continent.".'

Our volunteer run café, will be open Saturdays and Sundays during the exhibition. Enjoy a delicious homemade morning or afternoon tea, during your visit to Lion Gate Lodge.

All artworks in the exhibition are for sale, with proceeds going to the artists and to assisting Foundation and Friends of the Botanic Gardens to continue supporting horticulture, conservation, scientific research and educations programs within your Botanic Gardens. Don’t miss this spectacular exhibition!


Sunday 5 - Sunday 19 August, 10am - 4pm Daily


Free entry


Lion Gate Lodge Garden
The Royal Botanic Garden
Mrs Macquaries Road, Sydney


Public transport recommended. Limited parking available
Meet the Curator
Robyn Macintosh brings a wealth of experience to the exhibition as the curator of Harvest. She is a Foundation and Friends volunteer and in addition to curating the prior two Charlotte Thodey exhibitions at the Botanic Gardens (2010 and 2013 respectively), she has also previously curated the annual Botanica art exhibition.

In addition to working with Charlotte Thodey on the development of artwork and selection for the exhibition, Robyn will also be selecting work from Charlotte’s students at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney and students from Ballarat, Geelong, Orange, Sturt, Berry and Vaucluse.

In explaining the overall vision for the exhibition, Robyn explains that she believes “this is a particularly good time to hold a still life exhibition,” pointing out “people’s growing environmental awareness and the popularity of the Rembrandt exhibition at the Art Gallery, with its many sumptuous still lives. Plus Charlotte’s last two exhibitions at the botanic gardens were sellouts.”

Final selection for the exhibition will commence in June.
Charlotte Thodey Artist and Teacher
Renowned Australian still-life painter and beloved art teacher Charlotte Thodey will be exhibiting a new body of work at Harvest which is a celebration of vegetables and the Royal Botanic Gardens as Sydney’s first farm.

Her paintings are a rare combination of elegance and irreverence in their combination of a sophisticated understanding of classical still-life virtues as well as the vibrant daring of the subversive. She famously sleeps with cabbages in her bedroom studio and searches farmer’s markets produce from the ravishing to the decaying. “You might think I was the health department,” she explains and then says, “I can stare at a desiree potato with such intensity you’d think I wasn’t normal.” The results of her horticultural obsession are exquisite still-life paintings of which 75-90 will be exhibited at Lion Gate Lodge.

She teaches throughout the year at the Botanic Gardens as well as in Ballarat, Geelong, Orange, Sturt, Berry and Vaucluse. Many of her students have studied with her for years and her classes here are infamous for their elaborate still-life displays. Of her classes, Thodey says she believes painting is a “great place to make mistakes. You can be human and curious. What’s wrong with that!” She believes still life is about the search for simplicity and that it reveals the essence of a person. “Painting still life is far from still. It’s all about editing. All the way along the journey of a painting you are editing in or editing out, saying to yourself “that’s not ok”, limiting the unessential, feeling the paint. The simplest composition is complicated enough”.

Charlotte’s students will be exhibiting at the Harvest exhibition, encompassing the second floor of historic Lion Gate Lodge.
History of Australia’s First Farm
Australia’s earliest botanic garden had its origin as a productive garden supplying the governor’s table.

Following recommendations by Sir Joseph Banks of plants for the new colony, Australia’s first farm was planted in 1788. Some of these plants came from England, but many were gathered on the way as the First Fleet stopped over at Teneriffe, Rio de Janeiro and the Cape of Good Hope. Not all of the plants survived the trip and many failed at their first planting mostly due to poor soils and weather, including being planted in the wrong season by a colony desperate to survive.

Nevertheless, sufficient plants did survive for Governor Phillip to establish a farm on the east side of what we now know as Farm Cove and in July 1788 it was noted that 9 acres of corn was established. Despite most serious farming activities being relocated to Parramatta, by 1802 Frenchman Francois Peron commented on the “vast garden (behind the lieutenant governor general’s house) which is worth the attention of both of the philosopher and the naturalist, on account of the great number of useful vegetables which are cultivated in it, and which have been procured from every part of the world…”

The list of initial plants is extensive and derived at the time from plants long cultivated in the United Kingdom, Europe and Scandinavia. Alan Frost in his book ‘The First fleet: the Real Story’ suggests that Banks’ approach was ‘as something of a blunderbuss one; ….providing, as it were, blanket insurance: if one variety of carrot or cabbage did not find the Botany Bay (the colony’s initial planned site) environment to its taste, another presumably would.’

References: ‘The First Fleet; The Real Story’ Alan Frost. ‘Starting from Scratch – Australia’s First Farm’ a publication of the Royal Botanic Garden. ‘Taken for Granted: The Bushland of Sydney and its Suburbs’ Doug Benson and Jocelyn Howell.
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