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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.

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

Benjamin Duterrau

etching, printed in black ink from one copper plate on paper (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)

More images of this artwork

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 Wurati, 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 Four (Liangis Gallery)

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Artist and subject

Benjamin Duterrau (age 68 in 1835)

Trukanini (age 23 in 1835)

Subject professions

Indigenous identity

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 Conciliation, 1840 by Benjamin Duterrau
The Conciliation, 1840 by Benjamin Duterrau
The Conciliation, 1840 by Benjamin Duterrau
The Conciliation, 1840 by Benjamin Duterrau

The art of conciliation

Magazine article by Gareth Knapman, 2017

Gareth Knapman explores the politics and opportunism behind the portraits of Tasmania’s Black War.

Portrait of Truganini, daughter of the Chief of Bruny Island, Van Diemens Land, c. 1835
Portrait of Truganini, daughter of the Chief of Bruny Island, Van Diemens Land, c. 1835
Portrait of Truganini, daughter of the Chief of Bruny Island, Van Diemens Land, c. 1835
Portrait of Truganini, daughter of the Chief of Bruny Island, Van Diemens Land, c. 1835

Black and white history

Magazine article by Michael Desmond, 2009

English artist Benjamin Duterrau took up the cause of the Indigenous peoples of Tasmania with his detailed and sympathetic renderings.

Self portrait, c. 1849 Charles Rodius
Self portrait, c. 1849 Charles Rodius
Self portrait, c. 1849 Charles Rodius
Self portrait, c. 1849 Charles Rodius

Elegance in exile

Portrait drawings from colonial Australia

Previous exhibition, 2012

Elegance in exile is an exhibition surveying the work of Richard Read senior, Thomas Bock, Thomas Griffiths Wainewright and Charles Rodius: four artists who, though exiled to Australia as convicts, created many of the most significant and elegant portraits of the colonial period.

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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.