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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.

Joseph Banks

1774
Sir Joshua Reynolds and William Dickinson (engraver)

mezzotint on paper (sheet: 52.5 cm x 38.6 cm, plate-mark: 45.2 cm x 35.5 cm)

Joshua Reynolds’s painting of Joseph Banks was first exhibited alongside Benjamin West’s portrait of Banks at the 1773 Royal Academy annual exhibition. Fifteen years West’s senior and the leading art theorist of the age, Reynolds and his works were bound to take precedence. Reynolds met Banks upon his return from the Endeavour voyage. They became friends who dined together with others of London’s intellectual world such as Samuel Johnson and Edmund Burke.

Banks in Reynolds’s portrait is more assured than he is in West’s. Half scientist, half adventurer, the subject appears at a scholar’s desk, just about to rise up out of his chair. With background sea and globe in evidence, the action due to occur is clearly maritime in nature. The writing below Banks’s left hand confirms it: cras ingens iterabimus aequor; ‘tomorrow tempt again the boundless sea.’ Banks never did return to the Pacific, but he acted as Mai’s chief patron when the Ra‘iatean arrived in 1774, and, as President of the Royal Society, became the most vocal advocate for the British colonization of Australia.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2008

Artist and subject

Sir Joshua Reynolds (age 51 in 1774)

William Dickinson (age 28 in 1774)

Sir Joseph Banks KCB (age 31 in 1774)

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.

In a good paddock

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2011

Celebrating a new painted portrait of Joseph Banks, Sarah Engledow spins a yarn of the naturalist, the first kangaroo in France and Don, a Spanish ram.

To the end of the earth

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2009

The portrait of Dr. Johann Reinhold Forster and his son George Forster from 1780, is one of the oldest in the NPG's collection.

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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.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency