Skip to main content

R O'Hara Burke, c. 1861

De Gruchy & Leigh (lithographers)

lithograph on paper (sheet: 19.0 cm x 13.5 cm)

In August 1860, shortly before the departure of the Victorian Exploring Expedition, Robert O’Hara Burke and William John Wills sat for the Melbourne photographer Thomas Adams Hill. Burke (1821–1861), an Irish-born former policeman, had been appointed leader of the expedition, and Wills (1834–1861) its astronomer and surveyor. In November 1861, the news reached Melbourne that the expedition had ended in awful circumstances, Burke and Wills being among the several men who lost their lives in the venture. The pair were instantly elevated to hero status. Waxworks proprietors were quick to advertise tableaux featuring the tragic heroes; a ‘Grand Moving Diorama’ of scenes from the expedition was exhibited; and various firms instantly responded to the demand for souvenir portraits and accounts of the ‘late lamented explorers’. Hill’s earlier portraits of Burke and Wills thereby became the template for various posthumous commemorative depictions, including this pair of lithographs by the Melbourne printers De Gruchy & Leigh.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2009

Accession number: 2009.127

Currently on display: Gallery Three (Robert Oatley Gallery)

Copyright image request form
Request a digital copy of an image for publication

Artist and subject

De Gruchy & Leigh (lithographers) (age 4 in 1861)

Robert O'Hara Burke (age 40 in 1861)

Subject professions

Exploration and settlement

© National Portrait Gallery 2020
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

The National Portrait Gallery of Australia (NPGA) 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.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.