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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Elegance in exile

Portrait drawings from colonial Australia

Previous exhibition from Friday 1 June 2012 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.

Self portrait, c. 1849 Charles Rodius
Self portrait, c. 1849 Charles Rodius

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.

10 portraits

1Martha Sarah Butler, c. 1845 Thomas Griffiths Wainewright. 2Edward Paine Butler, c. 1845 Thomas Griffiths Wainewright.
Elegance in exile tour dates

Originally shown at the National Portrait Gallery
Friday 1st June until Sunday 26th August 2012

Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery

Saturday 15th September until Sunday 4th November 2012

Related information

The Cutmear sisters, Jane and Lucy, c. 1842
The Cutmear sisters, Jane and Lucy, c. 1842
The Cutmear sisters, Jane and Lucy, c. 1842
The Cutmear sisters, Jane and Lucy, c. 1842

A man of superior attainments

Magazine article by Joanna Gilmour, 2013

Joanna Gilmour explores the life of a colonial portrait artist, writer and rogue Thomas Griffiths Wainewright.

Miss Robertson of Colac (Dolly), 1885-86
Miss Robertson of Colac (Dolly), 1885-86
Miss Robertson of Colac (Dolly), 1885-86
Miss Robertson of Colac (Dolly), 1885-86

Brothers on farms

Magazine article by Malcolm Robertson, 2011

Malcolm Robertson tells the family history of one of Australia's earliest patrons of the arts, his Scottish born great great great grandfather, William Robertson.

A woman of New South Wales, c. 1840
A woman of New South Wales, c. 1840
A woman of New South Wales, c. 1840
A woman of New South Wales, c. 1840

More cash than dash

Magazine article by Joanna Gilmour, 2011

Joanna Gilmour describes how colonial portraitists found the perfect market among social status seeking Sydneysiders.

Self portrait, c. 1849 Charles Rodius
Self portrait, c. 1849 Charles Rodius
Self portrait, c. 1849 Charles Rodius
Self portrait, c. 1849 Charles Rodius

Fine and dandy

Magazine article by Joanna Gilmour, 2010

Whether the result of misadventure or misdemeanour, many accomplished artists were transported to Australia where they ultimately left a positive mark on the history of art in this country.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.