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William Nicholas

William Nicholas was born near London and is believed to have trained with English printmaker A.M Huffam. He arrived in Sydney in 1836 and soon after was in high demand for his portraits. By 1842, he was advertising himself as a 'miniature painter on ivory and in watercolours, a lithographer and draughtsman' and had established a studio residence on Elizabeth Street which provided an 'attiring room' for ladies. According to Lionel Lindsay, Nicholas drew 'the rustle of skirts' for his livelihood, and a number of his surviving portraits demonstrate the patronage he enjoyed from the colony's elite, such as the King, Macarthur and Wentworth families. By 1847, the Sydney Morning Herald was declaring that Nicholas 'had more heads offered to him for decapitation than he is able to take care of'. While Nicholas may be best known for his charming portraits of society figures - particularly women and children - he also lithographed many drawings for publication, including those in William Baker's Heads of the People (1848) and Profiles of Australian Aborigines (1840), which were largely re-workings of William Fernyhough's silhouettes of Sydney Indigenous identities. Collections of Nicholas's work are held by the Mitchell Library, National Library, Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, and the Historic Houses Trust of NSW.

Updated 2018