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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.

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A Collins Street Surgeon "Patients and Diamonds" [Dr Beaney F.R.C.S.]

1874
Tom Durkin and The Weekly Times (publisher)

from the series ‘Masks and Faces’
lithograph on paper (sheet: 32.5 cm x 18.6 cm)

James George Beaney (1828–1891), doctor and philanthropist, completed an apprenticeship to a surgeon in his home town of Canterbury, Kent, before leaving to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh. There, he is thought to have contracted tuberculosis, initiating a health-related sojourn in Victoria in 1852–53. Eventually completing his studies as planned, he became an army doctor, serving in Gibraltar and the Crimea before visiting America as a surgeon on immigrant ships. He returned to Melbourne in 1857, acquired a practice in 1858, and became an honorary surgeon to the Melbourne Hospital in 1860, the same year in which he was elected a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. By this time, he had authored one of the first medical textbooks published in Australia. A pioneering paediatrician, anaesthetist, proponent of family planning and expert in the treatment of venereal disease, Beaney was a bold, even reckless, surgeon, on occasion undertaking risky procedures with success. But he was also accused of incompetence and was shunned by many in the medical fraternity for his outrageous flamboyance, said to have extended to consuming his favourite tipple, champagne, while performing operations before invited guests (who were also imbibing). His taste for jewels (which he wore while operating) earned him the nickname ‘Diamond Jim’ and made him a target for caricaturists. In 1866, Beaney faced trial – twice – for the murder of a barmaid alleged to have died as a result of an ‘illegal operation’; he was acquitted. Despite such scandals, he was admitted to the degree of MD by the University of Melbourne and St Andrews University; and from 1883 until his death he was the member for North Yarra on the Legislative Council. Among the various organisations and charities to benefit from his substantial estate were medical schools in Melbourne and London; several hospitals; and the city of Canterbury, to which he bequeathed £10,000 for the establishment of the ‘Beaney Institute for the Education of the Working Man’ (now the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge), which opened in 1897.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2016

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Tom Durkin (age 21 in 1874)

The Weekly Times

James G. Beaney (age 46 in 1874)

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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.

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Magazine article by Joanna Gilmour, 2016

Joanna Gilmour on Tom Durkin playing with Melbourne's manhood.

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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 past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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