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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.

Edward Paine Butler, c. 1845

Thomas Griffiths Wainewright

watercolour, gouche and pencil on paper (frame: 51.5 cm x 47 cm, sight: 25.5 cm x 20.5 cm)

Edward Paine Butler (1811–1849) was the eldest son of lawyer and landowner Gamaliel Butler and his wife Sarah, who emigrated to Van Diemen’s Land in 1824. Edward followed in 1835 with his wife, Martha Sarah Butler (née Asprey 1811–1864), to take up a position in the law firm established by his father in Hobart. Martha and Edward’s first child, a son, was born in 1835; another four children, three sons and a daughter, were born between 1837 and 1842. Following Edward’s death from tuberculosis at age thirty-seven. Martha returned to Europe. She never remarried, living in London and Paris for a number of years before returning to Hobart. She died at the Butler family home, Stowell, in Battery Point, in July 1864.

Thomas Griffiths Wainewright (1794–1847) is one of Australian colonial art’s most intriguing figures. Born in Surrey, Wainewright was introduced to intellectual circles at a young age and had established himself as an artist, collector and essayist by the time he was in his twenties. At the age of twenty-six he began exhibiting his work at the Royal Academy, where he came under the influence of Henry Fuseli. By the time he married in 1817 he had squandered much of a £5000 inheritance and had taken to forgery to gain access to funds held in trust. Wainewright was suspected also of poisoning three relatives by whose deaths he stood to gain financially. After six years in hiding in France, Wainewright returned to England and was arrested, found guilty of fraud and sentenced to transportation to Van Diemen’s Land for life. In Hobart from November 1837, Wainewright proved to be a model prisoner, replacing assignment to a road gang with a position as an orderly at the Colonial Hospital where he made the acquaintance of sympathetic officials. By way of these connections he was enabled to continue his work as an artist. Wainewright was granted a ticket-of-leave in 1844 and established himself as a portrait painter, creating likenesses for a number of prominent families. He died in Hobart in August 1847, having created over fifty works now counted among the finest examples of colonial Australian portraiture.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2009

Accession number: 2009.149

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Thomas Griffiths Wainewright (age 51 in 1845)

Edward Butler (age 34 in 1845)

Subject professions

Law and justice

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 Cutmear sisters, Jane and Lucy, c. 1842
The Cutmear sisters, Jane and Lucy, c. 1842
The Cutmear sisters, Jane and Lucy, c. 1842
The Cutmear sisters, Jane and Lucy, c. 1842

A man of superior attainments

Magazine article by Joanna Gilmour, 2013

Joanna Gilmour explores the life of a colonial portrait artist, writer and rogue Thomas Griffiths Wainewright.

Edward Paine Butler, c. 1845 Thomas Griffiths Wainewright
Edward Paine Butler, c. 1845 Thomas Griffiths Wainewright
Edward Paine Butler, c. 1845 Thomas Griffiths Wainewright
Edward Paine Butler, c. 1845 Thomas Griffiths Wainewright

Poison pen

Magazine article by Michael Desmond, 2010

Michael Desmond examines the career of the eighteenth-century suspected poisoner and portrait artist Thomas Griffiths Wainewright.

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.