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The Colonel (portrait of Walter Withers)
, 1896

by David Davies

pastel on paper (frame: 68.7 cm x 53.7 cm, sheet: 39.9 cm x 30.2 cm)

Walter Withers (1854–1914), painter, interior designer and teacher, trained at the Royal Academy in London before coming to Australia in 1882. Having travelled around Victoria, absorbing the details of the landscape, he worked as a draughtsman in Melbourne before returning to London to marry, and proceeding to Paris to undertake further art classes at the Académie Julian. After some years abroad, he returned to Melbourne, soon joining Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton and others at their camp at Eaglemont, near Heidelberg. In 1890 he established an artists’ enclave at Charterisville, Heidelberg, where he painted and taught. The following year he opened an atelier in the city; later he moved to Creswick, where his pupils included Percy and Norman Lindsay. At various periods he was a trustee of the National Gallery of Victoria, the Public Library and the museum, and the president of the Victorian Artists’ Society. A key member of what has become known as the ‘Heidelberg School’, many of whose members had nicknames (‘Smike’, ‘Bulldog’, ‘The Prof’ – he was ‘The Colonel’), Withers is represented in most major Australian galleries, as well as the large regional galleries of Victoria.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2009
Accession number: 2009.35