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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.

Isabella Louisa Parry

c. 1826
an unknown artist

watercolour on ivory (frame: 24.5 cm x 21.0 cm, support: 10.0 cm x 7.5 cm)

Isabella Louisa Parry (née Stanley, 1801–1839), amateur artist, welfare worker and collector, came to New South Wales in late 1829 when her husband, the Arctic explorer and hydrographer William Edward Parry (1790–1855), was appointed commissioner for the Australian Agricultural Company. In March 1830, having remained in Sydney for the birth of twins, she joined Parry at his base, Tahlee, on the northern shore of Port Stephens. There, in addition to attending to the needs of a growing family, she concerned herself with the needs of the local community, establishing schools for children and adult convicts; taking an interest in the welfare of the local Aboriginal people; and designing St John’s Chapel, built at Stroud in 1833. Like her friend Eliza Darling, Isabella took a keen interest in her surroundings, collecting natural history specimens and Aboriginal artefacts, and making sketches of and around her home. The Parrys returned to England in 1834, settling in Norfolk and then London, where Isabella died in May 1839, two days after giving birth to still-born twin boys. The Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University holds a number of examples of her work, including her plan for St John’s, several views of Port Stephens, and a sketch of the coal works on the Hunter River at Newcastle.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2014

Artist and subject

Lady Isabella Louisa Parry (age 25 in 1826)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

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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.

The artist and her family, c. 1854 by Martha Berkeley
The artist and her family, c. 1854 by Martha Berkeley
The artist and her family, c. 1854 by Martha Berkeley
The artist and her family, c. 1854 by Martha Berkeley

Presence and absence

Magazine article by Joanna Gilmour, 2018

The art of Australia’s colonial women painters affords us an invaluable, alternative perspective on the nascent nation-building project.

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The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
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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.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency