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Richard Fitzgerald, c. 1838

Edmund Edgar

pencil and watercolour on paper (frame: 46.7 cm x 39.5 cm depth 4 cm, sheet: 34.5 cm x 27.6 cm)

Richard Fitzgerald (1772–1840), convict and settler, was transported to New South Wales in 1791. His knowledge of agriculture made him useful to the colony’s administrators and a year after his arrival he was appointed superintendent of convicts at the government farm at Toongabbie. Having spent the first five years of a seven year sentence in Newgate Prison and then on a hulk at Woolwich, Fitzgerald soon earned his freedom and by 1802 was working as inspector and director of all of the farms belonging to government. He had also become a landowner and farmer in his own right, with substantial holdings in the Cabramatta district. Fitzgerald sided with John Macarthur and other major players in the overthrow of governor William Bligh in January 1808, in reward for which he was appointed constable of the Hawkesbury district by Bligh’s usurper, George Johnston. Despite this, Fitzgerald also came to enjoy the favour of the colony’s next governor, Lachlan Macquarie, who considered him a ‘most honest upright good man’. Fitzgerald served in a number of different roles during Macquarie’s term and became a close friend and trusted advisor to the governor and his wife, Elizabeth, who referred to him as ‘our dear Fitz’. Fitzgerald left government service following Macquarie’s return home, thereafter focussing on the management of his properties. One of the first shareholders in the Bank of New South Wales, Fitzgerald is said to have been partly responsible for introducing Freemasonry to New South Wales and was a generous donor to the church and other charities.

Edmund Edgar (1804–1854), engraver and portrait painter, was convicted of robbery in London in 1825 and sentenced to transportation for life. When he reached Sydney in 1826 he was assigned to the artist Augustus Earle, who required a skilled printmaker’s assistance with the production of Views in Australia – an album containing the first lithographic views printed in the colony. Edgar worked for a time as a teacher at Gilchrist’s School for boys and was recalled by one student, the artist Samuel Elyard, as being ‘glad to impart a knowledge of Art to anyone who had a taste for it’. Edgar received a ticket of leave in 1838 and a full pardon in 1844, but the few known surviving works by his hand confirm that he was working as a portraitist before this time. In the late 1840s, he was listed as occupying an address in The Rocks and he is also believed to have lived for a time in Parramatta. He died a pauper in the Sydney Benevolent Asylum in June 1854.

Donated through the Australian Government's
Cultural Gifts Program in memory of Richard Kelynack Evans 2010

Accession number: 2010.130

Currently on display: Gallery Three (Robert Oatley Gallery)

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Artist and subject

Edmund Edgar (age 38 in 1838)

Richard Fitzgerald (age 66 in 1838)

Donated by

Chris Bowman (2 portraits)

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