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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 Mrs Tom Roberts, 1910

Tom Roberts

oil on canvas (frame: 96.0 cm x 84.0 cm, support: 74.1 cm x 60.8 cm)

Elizabeth Sarah (Lillie) Roberts (née Williamson, 1860–1928), artist and frame maker, studied at the National Gallery School in Melbourne in the early 1880s before a period spent travelling in Europe. She exhibited paintings with the Victorian Artist’s Society between 1888 and 1892; and appears to have started making frames during the 1890s. She married artist Tom Roberts, a family friend, after a long courtship, in April 1896 and then moved to Sydney, where their only child, Caleb, was born in 1898. In 1903, dispirited at the lack of patronage in Australia, Roberts took his family to London, where Lillie trained in woodcarving and gilding. She later received a number of awards for her picture frames, examples of which were exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1908 and the Imperial Exhibition in 1909. They returned to Australia in 1923 and settled at Kallista in the Dandenongs, east of Melbourne. Two years after Lillie’s death in 1928, Roberts remarried; his second wife, Jean Boyes, was one of Lillie’s oldest friends.

This work is one of few existing paintings by Roberts known to be framed in a frame designed and carved by his wife.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with the assistance of the Circle of Friends 2013

Accession number: 2013.51

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Tom Roberts (age 54 in 1910)

Elizabeth Sarah Roberts (age 50 in 1910)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

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.

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Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2008

Dr. Sarah Engledow discovers the amazing life of Ms. Hilda Spong, little remembered star of the stage, who was captured in a portrait by Tom Roberts.

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This edited version of a speech by Andrew Sayers examines some of the antecedents of the National Portrait Gallery and set out the ideas behind the modern Gallery and its collection.

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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.