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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)

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

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.

Artist and subject

Benjamin Duterrau (age 68 in 1835)

Trukanini (age 23 in 1835)

Subject professions

Government and leadership

Supported by

The Ian Potter Foundation (13 portraits supported)

Related information

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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.

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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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