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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.

H Searle Professional Champion Sculler of the World (Henry Searle) (Image plate from Vanity Fair), 1889

Sir Leslie Ward

chromolithograph on paper (sheet: 38.0 cm x 24.5 cm)

Henry Searle (1886–1889), aka the ‘Clarence River Comet’, took up rowing as a boy as a means of getting himself to school. At 22 he moved to Sydney, where in October 1888 he beat compatriot and reigning world champion, Peter Kemp, by 150 yards in a race on the Parramatta River, netting himself both the world title and a winner’s purse of £1000. Upwards of 30,000 spectators are said to have watched the race and to have later crowded the city’s ‘principal sporting hostelries’ to discuss the impressiveness of Searle’s win and person. He confirmed his standing as the ‘King of Scullers’ in beating Canadian William O’Connor in a race on the Thames in October 1889. Though then at the peak of his much-commented-upon fitness, Searle contracted typhoid on the voyage home and died, aged 23, on 10 December 1889, three weeks after his ship berthed in Melbourne. His passing was met with great displays of public grief, 170,000 people reportedly turning out for his memorial service in Sydney. A monument to him was later erected on the Parramatta River rocks that had marked the finishing line in his famous 1888 victory.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2014

Accession number: 2014.41

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Sir Leslie Ward (age 38 in 1889)

Henry Searle (age 23 in 1889)

Subject professions

Sports and recreation

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.

"Australia" (Alfred Deakin) (Image plate from Vanity Fair), 1908 Sir Leslie Ward
"Australia" (Alfred Deakin) (Image plate from Vanity Fair), 1908 Sir Leslie Ward
"Australia" (Alfred Deakin) (Image plate from Vanity Fair), 1908 Sir Leslie Ward
"Australia" (Alfred Deakin) (Image plate from Vanity Fair), 1908 Sir Leslie Ward

Vanity fair

Magazine article by Ashleigh Wadman, 2012

Ashleigh Wadman rediscovers the Australian characters represented with a kindly touch by the British portrait artist Leslie Ward for the society magazine Vanity Fair.

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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.