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Truggernana, a native of southern part of V.D. Land, 1835

Benjamin Duterrau

etching, printed in black ink from one copper plate (sheet: 34.7 cm x 25.4 cm, plate-mark: 27.0 cm x 16.3 cm, image: 22.5 cm x 14.0 cm)

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Escalating hostilities between settlers and Indigenous people in Van Diemen’s Land in the late 1820s led to the introduction of a policy aimed at the removal of the Aboriginal population to a settlement on Flinders Island in Bass Strait. A free settler named George Augustus Robinson (1788–1866) was appointed to the position of ‘Conciliator of Aborigines’ to bring this policy into effect. Between 1830 and 1834, he conducted a series of expeditions around lutruwita (Tasmania) during the course of which, aided by Indigenous leaders such as Trukanini (c. 1812–1876), he persuaded Aboriginal people into exile. The Aboriginal people associated with Robinson became popular subjects for artists, the white community’s notion that Aboriginal people were faced with extinction feeding the demand for their portraits. Benjamin Duterrau arrived in Tasmania in 1832 and became known for his images of Trukanini and her compatriots. Duterrau created Australia’s first history paintings and his large-scale oil portraits of Trukanini and Woureddy, now in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, were among the first works acquired for a public collection in Australia. While many colonists celebrated Robinson for his perceived success in ‘civilising’ Aboriginal people, the community on Flinders Island was a failure, most of the people dying there soon after arrival.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with funds provided by the Ian Potter Foundation 2009

Accession number: 2009.1

Currently on display: Gallery Three (Robert Oatley Gallery)

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Artist and subject

Benjamin Duterrau (age 68 in 1835)

Trukanini (age 23 in 1835)

Subject professions

Indigenous identity

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