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Self portrait, c. 1849

Charles Rodius

pastel, ink wash on paper (sheet: 29.3 cm x 24 cm)

Charles Rodius was one of a number of artists whose Australian careers commenced in convictism. German-born, Rodius had spent several years in Paris where he studied and worked as a teacher of ‘music, painting, drawing and languages in families of the first distinction’. He then went to London where, in 1829, he was convicted of theft and sentenced to transportation to New South Wales for seven years. In so far as it was possible for those in his predicament, Rodius was fortunate in being possessed of a skill for which there was demand in Sydney, and very soon after he arrived he was assigned to the Department of Public Works as a draughtsman. He turned this situation to advantage, using his access to a lithographic press to create a portrait of Bungaree in early 1830 and then finding work as a drawing teacher to ‘most of the Civil and Military officers’. He subsequently completed commissions for the free settler and ex-convict classes as well as producing prints – and portraits particularly – for the popular market. His output, consequently, includes lithographs of the notorious felons John Knatchbull and John Jenkins (sold as souvenirs of their executions) and of explorer Ludwig Leichhardt, as well as portraits of Aboriginal people from the Sydney, Broken Bay and Shoalhaven districts, which were sold ‘at such charges as will place [them] within the reach of all classes.’

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2009

Accession number: 2009.125

Currently on display: Gallery Three (Robert Oatley Gallery)

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Artist and subject

Charles Rodius (age 47 in 1849)

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