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Portrait of His Excellency Sir Henry Barkly, Governor of Victoria
, c. 1864

by Thomas Clark

oil on canvas (frame: 95.0 cm x 68.2 cm, support: 76.0 cm x 49.0 cm)

Sir Henry Barkly GCMG KCB (1815-1898), colonial governor, started his career in business and politics before serving terms as governor of British Guiana and then Jamaica. Appointed governor of Victoria, he arrived in the colony on Christmas Eve 1856, just a few weeks after the first sitting of its newly-created parliament. His term began terribly when his wife died after giving birth to a son in April 1857. Over the next six years Barkly’s priority was securing stable government – a challenge, as into the 1890s the parliament was to comprise generally independent members who aggregated into factions according to the issues of the day. Meanwhile, he was a strong supporter of philanthropic and intellectual movements; he was a founder and President of the Royal Society of Victoria, and helped to found the National Gallery, the Acclimatization Society and the National Observatory. It was Barkly who proposed – in 1861 – that the Victorian Exploring Expedition should be known henceforth as the Burke and Wills Exploring Expedition. In 1863 he became Governor of Mauritius; seven years later he was sent to the Cape of Good Hope, where he made several regrettable decisions before being recalled to England in 1877. In retirement, as an elected Fellow of the Royal Society and the Royal Geographical Society, he applied himself to science.

Thomas Clark (c. 1814–1883), teacher and painter, arrived in Victoria from England in about 1852, having been anatomical draftsman at King’s College London and headmaster of the Birmingham School of Design. By the 1860s he was teaching at the Artisans’ Schools of Design in Carlton and Collingwood, and becoming known for his landscapes of the Melbourne area. Clark painted Barkly on commission. This work is a study for the final colossal portrait, which lacks a horse.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased with funds provided by The Ian Potter Foundation 2007
Accession number: 2007.43