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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.

Alexander MacLeay

c. 1845
Sir Thomas Lawrence and Charles Fox (engraver)

engraving on paper (sheet: 42.5 cm x 34.5 cm, plate-mark: 30.0 cm x 24.0 cm)

Alexander Macleay (1767–1848), public servant and entomologist, arrived in Sydney in early 1826 having accepted the position of Colonial Secretary. Scottish-born Macleay had been a civil servant since 1795 but was also an accomplished entomologist and a fellow of the Linnaean and Royal Societies. Macleay had a particular interest in moths and butterflies and by 1825 had amassed what was purported to be the best insect collection in private hands. This collection, along with his wife and six daughters, accompanied him to Sydney. Within a few years he had acquired much land, including 54-acres at Elizabeth Bay which Macleay developed as a garden estate stocked with exotic plants and decorated with picturesque structures. Macleay resigned as Colonial Secretary in 1837, by which time his fortunes were in decline. He had to borrow heavily from his son, William, and in due course was forced to subdivide most of the Elizabeth Bay estate and sell his private library. He was a member of the first part-elective Legislative Council in 1843 and soon after became Speaker; he resigned in 1846. Before he died as the result of a carriage accident his contributions to public affairs and to science had been widely acknowledged. The Macleay River and several other locations are named after him and his celebrated entomological collection now forms the backbone of the Macleay Museum at the University of Sydney.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 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

Sir Thomas Lawrence

Charles Fox

Alexander Macleay (age 78 in 1845)

Subject professions

Science and technology

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

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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.

Caroline Amelia Elizabeth
of Brunswick, 1804
Caroline Amelia Elizabeth
of Brunswick, 1804
Caroline Amelia Elizabeth
of Brunswick, 1804
Caroline Amelia Elizabeth
of Brunswick, 1804

Around the grounds

Magazine article by Dr Anne Sanders, 2010

Anne Sanders writes about the exhibitions Victoria & Albert: Art & Love on display at the Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace and the retrospective of Sir Thomas Lawrence at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

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The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

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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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