Louisa Atkinson Watercolour


Louisa Atkinson Watercolour - The Possum (1860)

Returning to the Southern Highlands is a significant painting by Louisa Atkinson, a noted botanist, journalist, novelist and artist of the mid-1900s. The watercolour entitled ‘Study of a Possum’ has been put on display at Harper’s Mansion, the National Trust property in Berrima, for a limited time.

Louisa Atkinson was born at Oldbury Farm under the shadows of Gingenbullen, Sutton Forest in 1834. Her father died soon after she was born and her mother’s marriage to George Barton, the overseer at Oldbury, was such that her mother Charlotte fled her home, taking Louisa and her siblings away. After recourse to the Courts, Charlotte regained ownership of Oldbury for her son in 1846.

The watercolour now at Harper’s was painted in 1860, a period in which mother and daughter were living at Fernhurst at Kurrajong Heights in the Blue Mountains.

Louisa only returned to live in a small cottage on the Oldbury estate, Swanton, after her marriage to botanist James Calvert. She died at Swanton in 1872 fearing the worst after seeing he husband’s horse return home riderless.

Many of her works are now held by the NSW State Library but the ‘The Study of a Possum’ was gifted to the National Trust by Janet Cosh, Louisa’s granddaughter, a long-time resident of Moss Vale. It hung in Old Government House for several years and has recently been restored and re-framed.

The fragility of the watercolour and its susceptibility to fading means it can only be put on display for a few months before being returned to the Trust's archives.