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Queen Rose of the Wathaurung People, c.1876-77

Fred Kruger

albumen paper photograph (mount: 11.7 cm x 7.9 cm, image: 9.4 cm x 5.4 cm)

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Photographer Fred Kruger (1831–1888) was born Johan Friedrich Carl Kruger in Berlin and came to Victoria in the late 1850s to join his brother Bernhard in a cabinetmaking business in Rutherglen. Advertisements describe Kruger as an ‘Upholsterer, Paperhanger and Manufactor of Mattresses’, in which capacities he worked in both Rutherglen and Taradale in the early 1860s. By late 1866 he had sold up, moved to Melbourne and taken up photography, one of his earliest known productions being a group portrait of the Aboriginal cricket team that was engraved for publication in the Illustrated Australian News. Working from premises in Carlton and later Prahran and Preston in the 1870s, Kruger made his name with his landscape photographs, some of which were awarded medals at exhibitions in Vienna and Philadelphia in 1873 and 1876 respectively. At the Geelong Industrial Exhibition of 1879–1880 Kruger exhibited a three-metre long panorama of the city and also created ‘a splendid series of views of the Exhibition building and its contents, including special pictures of the fernery and fountain and particular exhibits.’ By this time Kruger had moved to Geelong, further photographs of which won him an award at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition.

Regarding portraiture, Kruger is remembered for his photographs of the residents of Coranderrk, an agricultural settlement near Healesville established in 1863 as a result of lobbying on the part of Aboriginal leaders for land on which dispossessed people could build a community. By 1876, when it was reported that Kruger had ‘executed photos of aboriginal life and native scenery’ – the majority of which were ‘scenes from the Coranderrk mission station’ – the settlement had become a productive farming property. In this context, Kruger’s early images of Coranderrk people and scenes would have been read as indicators of the degree to which Aboriginal people might adapt to non-Aboriginal ways. The images Kruger subsequently made for the Victorian Board for the Protection of Aborigines, however, reflected the tension that emerged when white authorities, noting Coranderrk’s commercial value, began to call for its closure and the separation and relocation of its people. In this light, Kruger’s portraits are part of the nineteenth-century practice of documenting people and cultures whose disappearance was held to be inevitable. Kruger’s photograph of Rose Walcoriot (c. 1828–1893), dubbed ‘Queen Rose’, a Watha Wurrung or Wathaurung (Waddawurrung) woman from the Ballarat area, featured in his Album of Victorian Aboriginals, Kings, Queens & c., a compilation of twelve carte de visite portraits pitched at a general, souvenir-hunting audience.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2017

Accession number: 2017.112

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Fred Kruger (age 45 in 1876)

Rose Walcoriot (age 56 in 1876)

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