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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.

Sir James Reading Fairfax, 1898

Tom Roberts

oil on canvas laid on board (frame: 100.1 cm x 88.2 cm, sight: 73.0 cm x 60.5 cm)

James Reading Fairfax (1834–1919), son of Sydney Morning Herald founder John Fairfax (1804–1877), was the second Fairfax boy to join his father’s business. When he joined the company it became John Fairfax and Sons. Under the triumvirate of John, Charles and James Fairfax the Sydney Morning Herald developed from a small journal into one of the most influential and respected newspapers in the country. From the 1860s onward, James Reading Fairfax was instrumental in establishing a host of key charitable and cultural organisations in Sydney. A Director of AMP, the Bank of New South Wales and Burns, Philp and Co, he was also President of the Royal Sydney Golf Club, Commodore of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron and President of the Trustees of the National Art Gallery of New South Wales.


Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of John Fairfax Holdings Ltd 2002
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program

Accession number: 2002.74

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Tom Roberts (age 42 in 1898)

Sir James Reading Fairfax KT (age 64 in 1898)

Subject professions

Media and communications

Donated by

Fairfax Media Limited (13 portraits)

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.

The sisters, 1904
The sisters, 1904
The sisters, 1904
The sisters, 1904

Beguiling impressions

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2012

Sarah Engledow is seduced by the portraits and the connections between the artists and their subjects in the exhibition Impressions: Painting light and life.

Practising the Minuet (Miss Hilda Spong), 1893 Tom Roberts
Practising the Minuet (Miss Hilda Spong), 1893 Tom Roberts
Practising the Minuet (Miss Hilda Spong), 1893 Tom Roberts
Practising the Minuet (Miss Hilda Spong), 1893 Tom Roberts

An actress and her fans

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2008

Dr. Sarah Engledow discovers the amazing life of Ms. Hilda Spong, little remembered star of the stage, who was captured in a portrait by Tom Roberts.

Sir Macfarlane Burnet, 1960-1961 William Dargie
Sir Macfarlane Burnet, 1960-1961 William Dargie
Sir Macfarlane Burnet, 1960-1961 William Dargie
Sir Macfarlane Burnet, 1960-1961 William Dargie

Picture this...

Magazine article by Andrew Sayers AM, 2003

This edited version of a speech by Andrew Sayers examines some of the antecedents of the National Portrait Gallery and set out the ideas behind the modern Gallery and its collection.

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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.