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William Robertson junior, c.1857

Conway Hart (attributed)

oil on canvas (frame: 69.0 cm x 54.6 cm, support: 58.5 cm x 43.0 cm)

William Robertson (1839–1892), lawyer, landowner and politician, was born in Hobart and educated there and at Wadham College, Oxford. His father, William Robertson senior, had emigrated to Van Diemen’s Land in 1824 and in the mid-1830s invested in a scheme to expand pastoral activities to Port Phillip. William senior eventually moved his family to an estate near Colac, building it into one of Victoria’s leading cattle studs. William junior inherited the Colac property, called The Hill, on his father’s death in 1874; two years later he retired as a barrister and with this three brothers focussed on the management of the family properties. He was a member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly in the 1870s and 1880s, although it was said that he was ‘much better fitted to shine in social life, being a man of amiable disposition and high private character.’

Conway Hart arrived in Melbourne in 1850 and worked there and in Geelong before relocating to Hobart in early 1855. An August 1856 review of his Liverpool Street ‘Portrait Gallery’ stated that ‘the portraits issuing from this studio excel anything witnessed before in this colony.’ Hart returned to Victoria in 1857. He exhibited in the Victorian Fine Arts Society’s inaugural exhibition that year, but by 1860 was making plans to leave the colonies altogether.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2017

Accession number: 2017.134

Currently on display: Gallery Four (Liangis Gallery)

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Artist and subject

Conway Hart (age 43 in 1857)

William Robertson Jnr (age 18 in 1857)

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