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Francis Russell Nixon, c. 1845 - 1855

George Richmond

copperplate engraving on buff paper (frame: 54.5 cm x 44.2 cm, sight: 29.5 cm x 21.5 cm)

Francis Russell Nixon (1803-1879) was consecrated as the first bishop of Tasmania at Westminster Abbey in 1842 and arrived in Van Diemen’s Land the following year. During his nineteen years in the colony Nixon secured funds to establish the Launceston Church Grammar School and the Hutchins School in Hobart, as well as Christ’s College, the first tertiary institution in Australia. He took an interest in the spiritual welfare of Tasmania’s convicts, and gave evidence at the 1847 House of Lords committee hearing into the transportation system in Van Diemen’s Land. Various issues concerning the role of the church brought him into conflict with Lieutenant-Governor Sir John Eardley-Wilmot and Wilmot’s successor, Sir William Thomas Denison, and he also bought into arguments between High and Low churchmen within the Tasmanian Church of England. A talented amateur artist and connoisseur, he was on the organising committee for the first art exhibitions held in Tasmania in the mid-1840s, and held a solo exhibition of his own watercolour landscapes in 1858. He was one of the first people in Tasmania to pursue photography, and his portraits of Oyster Bay Aboriginal people are well known. Having returned to a living in Yorkshire, he retired to Italy. George Richmond (1809–1896) was a very successful English portraitist, whose papers indicate that he represented more than two thousand sitters. Richmond painted portraits of Francis Nixon and his wife Anna Maria shortly before they left for Van Diemen’s land. George Brown engraved a replica of Nixon’s portrait, to be made into prints that could be distributed to his family and admirers. In 2013, the painted portraits were donated by the couple’s English great-great-granddaughter to the National Trust of Tasmania, to hang in the Nixons’ former home, Runnymede (then called Bishopstowe).

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2009

Accession number: 2009.40

Currently on display: Gallery Three (Robert Oatley Gallery)

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Artist and subject

George Richmond (age 36 in 1845)

Francis Nixon (age 42 in 1845)

Subject professions


Visual arts and crafts

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