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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.

Thomas Sutcliffe Mort and his wife Theresa

c. 1847
an unknown artist and Thomas Wharton (case designer)

daguerreotype in a pinchbeck case (case: 8.1 cm x 6.9 cm depth 0.5 cm, sight: 6.7 cm x 5.5 cm)

Thomas Sutcliffe Mort (1816–1878) was one of nineteenth- century Sydney’s most prominent businessmen. Born in Lancashire and raised in Manchester, Mort emigrated to New South Wales in 1838, believing that the colony presented ‘a better opening for his industrious habits and his business abilities than there was in the land of his birth’. Within five years he had started his own business as an auctioneer of wool and other commodities – a profession for which his ‘suavity of demeanour, and imperturbable good temper, rendered him eminently fit’. By 1850, he was the premier auctioneer in Sydney and had interests in insurance, agriculture, railway and mining ventures, among others. But he is perhaps most remembered for other initiatives, such as the dairy farms he operated on the estate he acquired at Bodalla in 1860; and the dry dock he helped to establish at Balmain in 1855, which he progressed from shipbuilding to locomotive production and general engineering. He also funded experiments in freezing and refrigeration technology, forming the New South Wales Fresh Food and Ice Company in 1875. Mort donated some of his substantial wealth to community causes, contributing to the building of Sydney’s St Andrew’s Cathedral and the University’s St Paul’s College. Following his death in May 1878, the city marked its esteem for him with a statue in Macquarie Place and Balmain’s Mort Bay was named in his honour.

Theresa Shepheard Mort (née Laidley, 1820–1869) was eight years old when she came to Sydney, her father, James Laidley (1786–1835) having been appointed to the position of deputy commissary general. The eldest of eight children, she was educated at home and received art lessons from Conrad Martens and the ex-convict portraitist, Charles Rodius. Theresa was around twenty-one when she married Thomas Sutcliffe Mort, and twenty-three when her first child, James Laidley Mort, was born. Theresa had eight more children over the next seventeen years; seven of them survived to adulthood. She spent much of her married life at Greenoaks, the Darling Point home established by Mort in 1843. Theresa has been described as a devoted wife and mother and Thomas was devastated by her death from cancer at the age of forty-nine. Mort, however, later remarried, and was to have two more sons before he died.

Purchased 2001

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.
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Audio description

2 minutes 26 seconds
Show transcript

Artist and subject

Thomas Wharton

Theresa Mort (age 27 in 1847)

Thomas Sutcliffe Mort (age 31 in 1847)

Subject professions

Business, trades and industry

Related portraits

1. Theresa and James Laidley Mort, 1844. All William Nicholas.

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Thomas Sutcliffe Mort and his wife Theresa
Thomas Sutcliffe Mort and his wife Theresa
Thomas Sutcliffe Mort and his wife Theresa
Thomas Sutcliffe Mort and his wife Theresa

Tiny Trace of a Colonial Giant

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2004

At just 7.8 x 6.2 cm, the daguerreotype of Thomas Sutcliffe Mort and his wife Theresa is one of the smallest works in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery.

Thomas Sutcliffe Mort and his wife Theresa
Thomas Sutcliffe Mort and his wife Theresa
Thomas Sutcliffe Mort and his wife Theresa
Thomas Sutcliffe Mort and his wife Theresa

Husbands and Wives

Photographic Portraits from 19th Century Australia

Previous exhibition, 2010

'I have just been to my dressing case to take a peep at you.

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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 past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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