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Portrait of Governor Arthur, 1767-1851
, c 1830

by Benjamin Duterrau

oil on wood panel (sight: 24.6 cm x 20.3 cm)

On loan to the National Portrait Gallery

Sir George Arthur (1784–1854), governor, came to Tasmania in 1824 having served as a soldier and colonial administrator for almost 20 years. An authoritarian man with a moralising, evangelical bent, Arthur applied himself to enhancing Tasmania’s efficiency as a prison. He established the penal settlement at Port Arthur in 1830, and Van Diemen’s Land was soon notorious as a brutal place of punishment. In addition, Arthur made attempts – ultimately destructive – to resolve hostilities between settlers and dispossessed Indigenous Tasmanians. In the late 1820s, violence on both sides led to Arthur’s imposition of martial law and the conflict known as the ‘Black War’ which resulted from attempts to exclude Aboriginal people from settled districts and later to confine them within the Tasman Peninsula. In 1831, he instigated the ‘friendly mission’ of George Robinson, which persuaded all Aborigines to accept relocation to Flinders Island, with catastrophic consequences. Arthur was recalled from Tasmania in 1836, later serving in vice-regal roles in Canada and India.

Pictures Collection
National Library of Australia
Accession number: LOAN2009.12.8