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James T. Donovan
, 1892

by Tom Roberts

oil on canvas (frame: 54.5 cm x 50.0 cm, support: 33.3 cm x 28.5 cm)

James T Donovan (1861-1922), journalist, Catholic historian and amateur singer, was born into an Irish Catholic family in Sydney. His father had a shop that was the first outlet for the Freeman’s Journal, a Sydney-based journal of Irish and Catholic news and affairs. James began work for the paper at a young age; he was its sub-editor for many years, as well as a contributor to several other Sydney and Melbourne newspapers. While in his early twenties, he wrote The most Rev. Roger Bede Vaughan, D.D., O.S.B., Archbishop of Sydney, life and labours : containing an account of his career from opening to close, a review of his writings, speeches and ecclesiastical work : together with some personal sketches never before published (1883). His biography of Moran, His Eminence, Australia's first cardinal, prince of the church and public man: an appreciation of Cardinal Moran's work as prelate and philanthropist, scholar and statesman: in celebration of his sacerdotal golden jubilee was published in 1902. Over the 1890s Donovan established a reputation as a melodious singer and elocutionist in benefit concerts and liedertafel nights. His various talents combined with his knowledge of Sydney’s history, his amusing discourse and his pleasant manner to make him very well-known about town. After he died, several papers lamented that he had not completed an account of his own life, times and acquaintances.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2015
Accession number: 2015.2