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Elegance in exile

Portrait drawings from colonial Australia

Friday 1 June until Sunday 26 August 2012

Elegance in exile is an exhibition surveying the work of Richard Read senior, Thomas Bock, Thomas Griffiths Wainewright and Charles Rodius: four artists who, though exiled to Australia as convicts, created many of the most significant and elegant portraits of the colonial period.

Martha Sarah Butler, c. 1845 by Thomas Griffiths Wainewright
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Martha Sarah Butler, c. 1845 by Thomas Griffiths Wainewright

An exhibition of sixty beautiful and rarely-seen drawings, watercolours and miniatures, Elegance in exile will examine the interplay of art, biography and history in their work, tracing the links between their own lives and those of their sitters to present a fine and vivid map of life, culture and aspirations in colonial Australia.

The artists Richard Reed senior, Thomas Bock, Thomas Griffiths Wainewright and Charles Rodius are recognised today for the portraits they created in the first half of the nineteenth century. Exiled to Australia as convicts, they produced some of the most elegant and significant Australian portraits of the period. The drawings, watercolours, sketches, prints and miniatures examined in Elegance in Exile encompass the stories of Indigenous leaders, governors, explorers, administrators and gentry, as well as colonists of less illustrious or ex-convict stock.

A fine and vivid record of Australian colonial life, society and identity, Elegance in Exile examines the conditions under which these artists practised, exploring patronage of the arts in colonial Sydney and Hobart and profiles the pre-eminence of drawing and printmaking in the early years of the visual arts in Australia.