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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.

John Fairfax

c. 1860
Edwin Dalton (attributed)

pastel on paper laid on canvas (frame: 80.0 cm x 65.7 cm, support: 63.7 cm x 58.4 cm)

John Fairfax (1804–1877), newspaper proprietor, was born in Warwickshire and as a teenager completed an apprenticeship in the printing and bookbinding trade. After a period working in London, Fairfax returned home, marrying his childhood friend, Sarah Reading, in July 1827 and subsequently becoming a part-owner of two newspapers. Bankrupted as a result of a libel suit, Fairfax opted for emigration to Australia, arriving in Sydney with Sarah and their three children in September 1838. Three years later, he and Charles Kemp purchased the seven-year old Sydney Herald, renaming it the Sydney Morning Herald in 1842. By the mid-1850s, under the management of Fairfax and his eldest sons, Charles and James, the paper boasted daily circulation figures bettered only by the Times and Telegraph in London. In addition to building his newspaper empire, Fairfax held positions with businesses such as the Australian Mutual Provident Society, the Australian Gaslight Co and the Savings Bank of NSW. He was also a leading figure in the Congregational movement in Australia, helping to establish the Pitt Street Congregational Church and serving there as a deacon and Sunday school teacher. Active in organisations including the Temperance Society and YMCA and a generous supporter of various other charities, Fairfax was a member of the Legislative Council from 1874 until his death in June 1877.

Gift of John Fairfax Holdings Ltd 2002. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program.

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.

Artist and subject

Edwin Dalton (age 53 in 1860)

Hon. John Fairfax MLC (age 56 in 1860)

Subject professions

Media and communications

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 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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