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Portrait of Mrs Sarah Fairfax
, c. 1864

by Edwin Dalton

pastel on paper laid on canvas (frame: 116.3 cm x 98.5 cm, sight: 86.2 cm x 68.5 cm)

Sarah Fairfax (née Reading, 1808–1875) was born in Warwickshire and in 1827 married John Fairfax (1804–1877), then the proprietor of a Leamington printery. In the wake of financial difficulties occasioned by a libel suit, Fairfax decided to emigrate to New South Wales, arriving in Sydney in September 1838 with Sarah and their three children. Another child was born in Sydney. Three years after they arrived, Fairfax and journalist Charles Kemp purchased the seven-year-old Sydney Herald, which they renamed the Sydney Morning Herald in 1842. With the purchase, Fairfax began a family association with the newspaper that would last for over five generations and nearly 150 years. From 1858, Sarah lived at Ginaghulla, in Bellevue Hill, where she died in 1875, predeceased by two of her four children.

Edwin Dalton, artist and photographer, arrived in Melbourne in the early 1850s having exhibited on occasion with the Royal Academy. By 1858 he had added photography to his repertoire and had moved to Sydney. His ‘Royal Photographic Gallery’ on George Street was known in particular for crayotypes: photographs coloured over with pastel. ‘These photographic art-portraits’, crowed Dalton’s advertisements, ‘combine the finish and brilliancy of artistic portraiture with the truthfulness, relief and power of the photograph.’

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of John Fairfax Holdings Ltd 2002
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 2002.80