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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.

Portrait of George Selth Coppin, c. 1895-99

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

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Tom Roberts (age 39 in 1895)

George Coppin (age 76 in 1895)

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.

Portrait of George Selth Coppin, c. 1895-99 Tom Roberts
Portrait of George Selth Coppin, c. 1895-99 Tom Roberts
Portrait of George Selth Coppin, c. 1895-99 Tom Roberts
Portrait of George Selth Coppin, c. 1895-99 Tom Roberts

The Multifarious Career of George Selth Coppin

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2004

George Selth Coppin (1819-1906) comedian, impresario and entrepreneur, was a driving force of the early Australian theatre.

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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.