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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.

Portrait of Sir Joseph Banks, president of the Royal Society, 1812

N Schiavonetti (engraver) after Thomas Phillips

line engraving on paper (backing sheet: 51.3 cm x 37.5 cm, sheet: 48.4 cm x 36.5 cm, image: 43.3 cm x 34.5 cm)

Sir Joseph Banks Bt (1743 – 1820) was, personally, a polymath of a type that is virtually unknown in the modern world. He saw more in his travels than almost anyone in his own time, and more than most people have now, in the age of jet travel. But Banks also lived his seventy-seven years in one of the most extraordinary periods the Western world has ever seen. During his lifetime Diderot laboured on his Encyclopaedia, and Linnaeus created the system of zoological nomenclature. Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations; Immanuel Kant wrote the Critique of Pure Reason; Hegel wrote The Science of Logic and The Phenomenonogy of Mind. Beethoven wrote most of his works, and Mozart wrote all of his. Byron, the Marquis de Sade and Jane Austen brought forth their entire output. Goya, Gainsborough and Reynolds produced their major works. The French Revolution and the American War of Independence came and went; George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were Presidents. Many of these things happened in the first 20 years of Australian settlement, while the successive fleets discharged their scrofulous passengers, watched by the Aboriginal people of the region. The motto of the Royal Society, Nullius in verba, means ‘take nobody’s word for it’.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2010

Accession number: 2010.112

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Thomas Phillips (age 42 in 1812)

N Schiavonetti

Sir Joseph Banks KCB (age 69 in 1812)

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.

Sir Joseph Banks, c. 1788 Benjamin West, John Raphael Smith
Sir Joseph Banks, c. 1788 Benjamin West, John Raphael Smith
Sir Joseph Banks, c. 1788 Benjamin West, John Raphael Smith
Sir Joseph Banks, c. 1788 Benjamin West, John Raphael Smith

In a good paddock

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2011

Celebrating a new painted portrait of Joseph Banks, Sarah Engledow spins a yarn of the naturalist, the first kangaroo in France and Don, a Spanish ram.

Portrait of Dr Johann Reinhold Forster and his son George Forster, c. 1780 Jean Francois Rigaud
Portrait of Dr Johann Reinhold Forster and his son George Forster, c. 1780 Jean Francois Rigaud
Portrait of Dr Johann Reinhold Forster and his son George Forster, c. 1780 Jean Francois Rigaud
Portrait of Dr Johann Reinhold Forster and his son George Forster, c. 1780 Jean Francois Rigaud

To the end of the earth

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2009

The portrait of Dr. Johann Reinhold Forster and his son George Forster from 1780, is one of the oldest in the NPG's collection.

Portrait of Captain James Cook RN, 1782 John Webber
Portrait of Captain James Cook RN, 1782 John Webber
Portrait of Captain James Cook RN, 1782 John Webber
Portrait of Captain James Cook RN, 1782 John Webber

Thrown together

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2009

Shipmates for years, James Cook and Joseph Banks each kept a journal but neither man shed light on their relationship.

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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.