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Portrait of George Selth Coppin
, c. 1895-99

by Tom Roberts

oil on cedar panel (frame: 73.0 cm x 45.0 cm, support: 61.2 cm x 34.1 cm)

George Coppin (1819–1906), comedian, entrepreneur and politician, cut his teeth in the world of the English itinerant theatre. Arriving in Sydney in 1843, he performed across the country before opening a theatre in Adelaide in 1846. His commercial holdings increased over the next few years, but in 1851 he lost his fortune. Through performing on the goldfields, he rebuilt a portfolio of theatres and hotels. In 1858 he was elected to the Victorian Legislative Council, but after five years, in serious debt, he resigned and returned to tread the boards. In 1874 he became a member of the Legislative Assembly; he held this post intermittently to 1888, after which he returned to the Council. Victoria’s first Freemason Grand Master, he energetically promoted reforms and innovation in the municipal sphere, including copyright legislation, the establishment of Post Office Savings banks, the St John Ambulance Society, the Old Colonists’ Association, the Dramatic and Musical Society, and the development of Sorrento as a tourist destination.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with funds donated by Mary Isabel Murphy 2004
Accession number: 2003.212