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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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