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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.

Arthur Phillip Esq., Captain General and Commander in Chief in & over the territory of New South Wales, 1789

Francis Wheatley and W Sherwin (engraver)

engraving on paper (sheet: 24.8 cm x 19.0 cm, plate-mark: 22.8 cm x 14.3 cm, image: 15.2 cm x 12.6 cm)

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Arthur Phillip (1738–1814) was appointed by the British Home Office in 1786 to command the first fleet of convicts to New South Wales. By this time, Phillip was a well-regarded servant of the state. Having joined the Royal Navy at seventeen, he had fought in the Seven Years’ War and the war against American Independence, and worked as a spy in France. His fleet arrived in Botany Bay in mid-January 1788, though Phillip quickly decided that Port Jackson, or Warrane, further north would be a better position for the intended colony. Under official instruction to establish good relations with the Indigenous locals, Phillip, as governor, tried for several months to engage a willing go-between. When all efforts failed, he forced the issue by kidnapping two men. Colebee soon escaped, but Bennelong chose to remain. Following a tumultuous first two years, the relationship between Phillip and Bennelong found equilibrium: Bennelong helped secure a period of relative peace while Phillip gave Bennelong critical information about British ways. This engraving copies a portrait by the painter Francis Wheatley, which was made in London upon Phillip’s appointment. Phillip holds a chart of NSW in his hand. Wheatley’s commissioned depictions of Phillip relied heavily on the neoclassical style of Joshua Reynolds.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2010

Accession number: 2010.54

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Francis Wheatley (age 42 in 1789)

W Sherwin

Arthur Phillip (age 51 in 1789)

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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.