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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.

Practising the Minuet (Miss Hilda Spong)

1893
Tom Roberts

oil on canvas (frame: 203.0 cm x 117.0 cm, support: 183.0 cm x 97.0 cm)

Hilda Spong (1875–1955), actress, came with her family to Australia from England in her early teens. Walter Spong, her father, was a scene painter who had worked at the Theatre Royal in Bristol and at Drury Lane. Hired by the Brough and Boucicault Comedy Company, in 1888 he moved to Melbourne, where he quickly fell in with Arthur Streeton and Tom Roberts (who soon painted Hilda’s mother). Hilda first appeared on stage when she was fourteen. After taking some acting lessons, she made her speaking debut in 1891 in the Brough and Boucicault production of Dr Bill. Two years later, Walter Spong established a company to showcase his daughter’s talents. On the basis of triumphs in Melbourne and New Zealand, in 1896 she left Australia to establish her career in London, making her Drury Lane debut in The Duchess of Coolgardie: A Romance of the Australian Gold Fields. Before long she moved to New York City, where she was to star in fifty Broadway productions between 1898 and 1940.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with funds provided by the Ian Potter Foundation 2008

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.
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Audio description

2 minutes 45 seconds
Show transcript

Artist and subject

Tom Roberts (age 37 in 1893)

Hilda Spong (age 18 in 1893)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Supported by

The Ian Potter Foundation (13 portraits supported)

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.

Practising the Minuet

'Who was Hilda Spong?'

Portrait story

Broadway star Miss Hilda Spong was painted by Tom Roberts in 1893.

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.

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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 past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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