The High Impact and Short Life of the Seditious Image
This paper takes an unexplored aspect of Australian involvement in the Boer War (1899 - 1902) to demonstrate the power deployed by a single artist to influence anti-war sentiments and the selective erasure and reframing of the images he produced to develop an Australian nationalism linked to Britain. Of all the Australian colonies, Queensland was the most enthused with colonial patriotism and bonds to Empire; so much so, that it offered troops to Britain four months before the actual declaration of war in the Transvaal in 1899. The various Queensland Bush Contingents sent to Transvaal hardly covered themselves with glory but it took several years before Queenslanders or post-Federation Australians became disillusioned with the War. The last Queensland contingent returned home in May 1902 to a less than enthusiastic welcome. It can be argued that the only Australian artist to consistently mount a provocative anti-war campaign in the popular press was Monte Scott (1835 - 1909) who produced the front-page cartoon, along with other full-page political images, for the Worker. The Bulletin was one of the few other papers not raucously pro-war, although there are few cartoons in that paper, or elsewhere in the Australian press for that matter, to rival Scott's singular venomous campaign against the Boer War. In this paper I present a visual survey of Scott's neglected images, demonstrating their influence on the gradual disillusionment with the war. I offer an explanation for the historical erasure of Scott's Nationalistic images and their selective absorption into the emblematic ANZAC tradition. I argue that Scott's images were too stridently anti-British in their sentiments, too independently Australian - too patriotic for the brand of Colonial Nationalism that World War I engendered.
AANZ Annual Conference 2009