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Portrait of Mrs Tom Roberts
, 1910

by 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, Canberra
Purchased with the assistance of the Circle of Friends 2013
Accession number: 2013.51