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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.

Jessie Robertson, c.1849

Thomas Bock

pencil, chalk and gouache on paper (frame: 73.5 cm x 66.7 cm, support: 66.0 cm x 49.4 cm)

Jessie Robertson (1835–1849) was the eldest child of pastoralist and entrepreneur William Robertson (1798–1874) and his wife Margaret (née Whyte, 1811–1866). Scottish- born Robertson had emigrated to Van Diemen’s Land in 1822 and in the decade leading up to his marriage to Margaret, the daughter of free settlers, had developed substantial landowning and business interests in the colony. Like many other spectacularly successful settlers, Robertson became something of a patron of local artists. In 1849, he commissioned portraits from Thomas Bock of himself, his wife, and his brother, James, as well as a portrait of Jessie. This drawing is a preparatory study for the painting of Jessie, now in the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia. In early December 1849 shortly after sitting for this portrait, Jessie died, aged fourteen, at the Robertson family home in Hobart, a memorial notice in the Colonial Times referring to her having suffered ‘a long and severe affliction.’

Thomas Bock (1790–1855), arrived in Hobart in January 1824, transported for fourteen years for his part in attempting to cause the miscarriage of a child conceived as a result of his seducing a young woman. At the time of his conviction, Bock was thirty-two, married and father to five children. As stated in his convict record, he had ‘served an apprenticeship to the Engraving Business’ and worked in Birmingham as a ‘portrait painter and engraver’. The colonial authorities therefore found immediate use for Bock, some of his earliest Tasmanian works being bank notes he engraved for the Bank of Van Diemen’s Land and drawings of executed criminals, made at the request of the Colonial Surgeon. After attaining a free pardon in 1833 he became Hobart’s most sought- after portraitist. Among his most significant works are his series of watercolours depicting Trukanini, Manalargenna and other Indigenous leaders, painted in the 1830s; and his 1842 portrait of Mathinna, an Aboriginal girl taken from her family in 1839 at the direction of Sir John and Lady Jane Franklin and sent to live at Government House in Hobart. Bock’s diverse output incorporated printmaking, drawing, watercolour and pastel as well as oil painting and photography. On his death in Hobart in March 1855 he was described as ‘an artist of a very high order’ whose works ‘adorned the homes of a number of our old colonists and citizens’.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with funds provided by L Gordon Darling AC CMG and Marilyn Darling AC 2013

Accession number: 2013.2

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Thomas Bock (age 59 in 1849)

Jessie Robertson (age 14 in 1849)

Subject professions

Migration and colonisation

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Self portrait, c. 1849 Charles Rodius
Self portrait, c. 1849 Charles Rodius
Self portrait, c. 1849 Charles Rodius
Self portrait, c. 1849 Charles Rodius

Fine and dandy

Magazine article by Joanna Gilmour, 2010

Whether the result of misadventure or misdemeanour, many accomplished artists were transported to Australia where they ultimately left a positive mark on the history of art in this country.

Alexander Pearce
executed for murder
July 19th 1824
Alexander Pearce
executed for murder
July 19th 1824
Alexander Pearce
executed for murder
July 19th 1824
Alexander Pearce
executed for murder
July 19th 1824

Public hanging

Magazine article by Michael Desmond, 2008

As a convict Thomas Bock was required to sketch executed murders for science; as a free man, fashionable society portraits.

Andy Thomas, 2002 Montalbetti+Campbell
Andy Thomas, 2002 Montalbetti+Campbell
Andy Thomas, 2002 Montalbetti+Campbell
Andy Thomas, 2002 Montalbetti+Campbell

Uncommon Australians

The vision of Gordon and Marilyn Darling

Previous exhibition, 2015

This exhibition showcases portraits acquired through the generosity of the National Portrait Gallery’s Founding Patrons, L Gordon Darling AC CMG and Marilyn Darling AC.

We would like to thank our partners.
© National Portrait Gallery 2020
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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.