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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.

James Robert Millar Robertson

1926
W.A. Bowring

oil on canvas (frame: 140.5 cm x 110.5 cm depth 7.5 cm, support: 116.5 cm x 86.5 cm)

James Robert M. Robertson (1844-1932), mining engineer and coal magnate, was the son of a Scottish surgeon and colliery owner, and qualified in medicine himself before opting for a career in mining. Having started out in his father's collieries and worked as a consultant to British mining concerns in Spain, Borneo, India and Burma, he settled in Sydney in 1880. Over the course of his career he consulted on deposits in New South Wales, Tasmania and Queensland, identifying some, misidentifying some and failing to spot others. He was, however, consistently involved in the success of Caledonian Coal, the Glasgow-based company that was the Australian coal industry leader, and was its managing director from 1896. By his early fifties he was also a director of the Mount Kembla Coal and Oil Company, the North Coast Steam Navigation Company and other firms of that ilk. He presided over several royal commissions into colliery accidents, into the conditions of the Ferndale pit in 1886 and into the Bulli colliery explosion of 1887; as consulting engineer to the Mount Kembla Colliery, he was interrogated during the enquiry into the terrible explosion there in 1902. An unyielding employer, but a nervous public speaker, he wrote a number of papers for learned societies. He owned many paintings, mostly by minor European artists and 'establishment' Australian-based artists including the Scots Lister Lister and John Mather, but also including a harbour view by Arthur Streeton 'commissioned when he came door-knocking offering to paint such views for harbour-side residents.' He made his family home in Kirribilli, and was a stalwart of the Neutral Bay Presbyterian Church and a benefactor of the Burnside Presbyterian Homes for Children.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the descendants of James Robert Millar Robertson 2011

Artist and subject

W.A. Bowring (age 52 in 1926)

James Robert M. Robertson (age 82 in 1926)

Subject professions

Science and technology

Donated by

James and Christian Robertson (1 portrait)

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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 National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency