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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.

The Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

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

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

Thomas Phillips (age 42 in 1812)

N Schiavonetti

Sir Joseph Banks KCB (age 69 in 1812)

Subject professions

Science and technology

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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.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency