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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.

Portrait of Julia Swan

c. 1842
an unknown artist

watercolour on ivory (frame: 20.0 cm x 16.4 cm, sight: 5.0 cm x 4.0 cm)

Harriet and Julia Swan were daughters of the successful colonial merchant John Swan (1796–1858), who arrived in Hobart around 1823.Despite being shunned by some as a shifty character (in England he had been tried for and acquitted of receiving stolen goods), Swan became a wealthy and notable member of the Hobart community via his property and business interests. Around 1826, he established Swan’s Stores, on Elizabeth Street; by the end of the decade it was one of Hobart’s best shops, trading in clothing, millinery, fabrics (‘which for quality and fashion have never been equalled in the colony’) and also ‘household furniture and upholstery of the best description’. Swan and his wife Mary Anne (née Cameron, 1800– 1869) had fourteen children. Harriet (1826–1853) and Julia (1834–1853) were the fifth and eighth respectively of the Swans’ nine daughters. Harriet married an army officer named Edmund Isdell in Hobart in December 1850. Her first child, a daughter, was born at the Swan family home, Beaulieu, in present-day North Hobart, in December the following year. In July 1853, Harriet gave birth to a son but died a fortnight later, presumably of complications arising from childbirth. Julia died of scarlet fever, aged nineteen, at Beaulieu on 6 August 1853, a week after the death of her sister.

Before being purchased by the National Portrait Gallery in 2013, these portraits were owned by a private collector who had acquired them directly from a descendant of Maria Swan, one of Harriet and Julia’s many sisters. The portraits were held by family tradition to have been painted by Thomas Bock (1790–1855), a miniature painter and engraver who in 1823 was sentenced to transportation to Van Diemen’s Land for fourteen years. Bock had earned his freedom by 1833 and thereafter succeeded in becoming one of the colony’s most successful artists, his portrait- painting skills – and the demand for them in a prosperous, parvenu society – being such that the taint of his convict background could be easily overlooked by prominent and respectable patrons.

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

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Julia Swan (age 8 in 1842)

Supported by

L Gordon Darling AC CMG (38 portraits supported)

Marilyn Darling AC (30 portraits supported)

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.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
Elizabeth
Elizabeth

Darling Portrait Prize

Previous exhibition, 2020

The Darling Prize is a new annual prize for Australian portrait painters, painting Australian sitters. The winner receives a cash prize of $75,000.

Andy Thomas
Andy Thomas
Andy Thomas
Andy Thomas

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.

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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 past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency