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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.

Opening of the first Parliament of the Australian Commonwealth, 9th May 1901, 1903

Tom Roberts and Goupil & Cie (engraver)

photogravure on paper (image: 53.7 cm x 88.0 cm, frame: 858 mm x 1197 mm depth 25 mm)

More images of this artwork

Tom Roberts’s painting of the opening of the first Australian Federal Parliament at the Exhibition Building in Melbourne in 1901 contains 269 individual portraits. Roberts was paid nearly 2 000 guineas to complete the work – a feat which took two and a half years and required numerous individual sittings with subjects in Melbourne, Sydney, London and elsewhere. Completed on three separate panels to facilitate transport, the painting was sent from England to France for photo-engraving. This is one of the resulting prints, which were sold to recover some of the cost involved in creating the work. For Roberts, the Big Picture was onerous, and he was grieved when it failed to boost his career. After it was shown at the Royal Academy in 1904, it was presented by the Commonwealth to King Edward VII. The painting, three metres high and five metres wide, returned to Australia on permanent loan in 1958 and is now displayed in Parliament House in a space specifically designed to accommodate it.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Penny Amberg and Andrew Bond 2001
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program

Accession number: 2003.161

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Tom Roberts (age 47 in 1903)

Goupil & Cie (age 74 in 1903)

Various

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

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, 1960-61 William Dargie
Sir Macfarlane Burnet, 1960-61 William Dargie
Sir Macfarlane Burnet, 1960-61 William Dargie
Sir Macfarlane Burnet, 1960-61 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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Fax +61 2 6102 7001
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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.