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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.

Jessie Whyte, c. 1840

Thomas Bock

pastel and chalk on paper laid down on cotton over Cedar strainer (frame: 44.0 cm x 38.0 cm, support: 36.0 cm x 30.8 cm, sheet: 35.5 cm x 30.8 cm)

This drawing by Thomas Bock is believed to be a portrait of Jessie Whyte (née Walker, 1779–1864). Born in Berwickshire, Scotland, Jessie married George Whyte (d. 1836) in November 1805. They emigrated to Van Diemen’s Land with their family in 1832 and settled on a property, Kelvin Grove, near Campbell Town. Jessie’s daughter Margaret married settler and businessman William Robertson in Campbell Town in 1834. Robertson and his brothers-in-law James, George, Pringle, John and William Whyte, were among the Van Diemen’s Land investors involved in schemes for the expansion of pastoral activities into western Victoria from the mid-1830s onwards. The Whyte brothers took up land west of present-day Bacchus Marsh in 1837 before moving to what is now the town of Coleraine. James Whyte (1820–1862) later became a politician and was Premier of Tasmania from 1863 to 1866.

Thomas Bock was one of many colonial-era artists whose Australian career commenced in convictism. Exiled to Van Diemen’s Land under a fourteen-year sentence in 1824, Bock remained in Hobart after attaining a pardon several years later, eventually becoming the portraitist of choice for many colonists.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2017

Accession number: 2017.135

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Thomas Bock (age 50 in 1840)

Jessie Whyte (age 61 in 1840)

Subject professions

Migration and colonisation

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

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.

Self portrait, c. 1849 Charles Rodius
Self portrait, c. 1849 Charles Rodius
Self portrait, c. 1849 Charles Rodius
Self portrait, c. 1849 Charles Rodius

Fine and dandy

Magazine article by Joanna Gilmour, 2010

Whether the result of misadventure or misdemeanour, many accomplished artists were transported to Australia where they ultimately left a positive mark on the history of art in this country.

Alexander Pearce
executed for murder
July 19th 1824
Alexander Pearce
executed for murder
July 19th 1824
Alexander Pearce
executed for murder
July 19th 1824
Alexander Pearce
executed for murder
July 19th 1824

Public hanging

Magazine article by Michael Desmond, 2008

As a convict Thomas Bock was required to sketch executed murders for science; as a free man, fashionable society portraits.

Self portrait, c. 1849 Charles Rodius
Self portrait, c. 1849 Charles Rodius
Self portrait, c. 1849 Charles Rodius
Self portrait, c. 1849 Charles Rodius

Elegance in exile

Portrait drawings from colonial Australia

Previous exhibition, 2012

Elegance in exile is an exhibition surveying the work of Richard Read senior, Thomas Bock, Thomas Griffiths Wainewright and Charles Rodius: four artists who, though exiled to Australia as convicts, created many of the most significant and elegant portraits of the colonial period.

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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.