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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.

Emily Fairfax, 1870

William Macleod

oil on canvas laid on board (frame: 125.5 cm x 95.0 cm, support: 107.2 cm x 76.7 cm)

Emily Ross (née Fairfax) (1832–1871) was the eldest child of newspaper publisher John Fairfax - who founded the Fairfax news dynasty in Sydney in 1841 - and his wife Sarah. Emily, born in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, came to New South Wales with her parents and two siblings in 1838, when she was six. At 23 she married Joseph Grafton Ross, who was to become general manager of the Colonial Sugar Refining Co; they had three children. Having lost her brother Charles in a horse-riding accident at Christmas in 1863, Emily died in a melancholy accident herself late in 1871. With her father and her brother’s widow, she was riding in a carriage on New South Head Road when the driver dropped the reins and fell from the vehicle as he tried retrieve them. John Fairfax jumped from the carriage, ending up bruised and cut. Emily followed, but her dress caught on the ‘splash step’ and she fell heavily, striking her head, near the corner of New South Head Road and Bellevue Road. Her sister-in-law jumped last, without injury. Emily was attended at the scene, and taken to the Fairfax home, only about a hundred yards away, but she died there the same night without regaining consciousness.

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

Accession number: 2002.82

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

William Macleod (age 20 in 1870)

Emily Fairfax (age 38 in 1870)

Donated by

Fairfax Media Limited (13 portraits)

Related information

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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.

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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.