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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.

Caleb Williamson Esq.

c. 1887
Tom Roberts

oil on canvas (frame: 106.0 cm x 93.5 cm, sight: 75.0 cm x 62.0 cm)

On loan to the National Portrait Gallery

Caleb Williamson (1828–1905), businessman, was involved in the drapery trade in Victoria and Tasmania throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century. Arriving in Melbourne around 1850, he established businesses on Lonsdale Street and in Collingwood, purveying ‘every variety of cheap and useful Goods in the Linen, Drapery and Grocery business.’ Williamson ran a similar business in Launceston during the 1860s and 1870s, during which period he first met artist Tom Roberts, his future son-in-law. On returning to Victoria around 1885, Williamson went into partnership in an importing business and department store, Craig & Williamson’s (later Craig, Williamson & Thomas), located on Elizabeth Street. A man with a great appreciation for art and music, Williamson came to play an important part in Tom Roberts’s career, introducing him to a circle of like-minded business associates and, consequently, securing for him further portrait commissions. From the 1880s until his death, aged seventy-seven, in November 1905, Williamson resided with his family at Rangeview, in Kew, becoming known locally as the ‘White Man’ for his habit of wearing a white suit.

Courtesy of Dr. J Allsop

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 Roberts (age 31 in 1887)

Caleb Williamson (age 59 in 1887)

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.

The sisters, 1904
The sisters, 1904
The sisters, 1904
The sisters, 1904

Beguiling impressions

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2012

Sarah Engledow is seduced by the portraits and the connections between the artists and their subjects in the exhibition Impressions: Painting light and life.

Practising the Minuet (Miss Hilda Spong)
Practising the Minuet (Miss Hilda Spong)
Practising the Minuet (Miss Hilda Spong)
Practising the Minuet (Miss Hilda Spong)

An actress and her fans

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2008

Dr. Sarah Engledow discovers the amazing life of Ms. Hilda Spong, little remembered star of the stage, who was captured in a portrait by Tom Roberts.

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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.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

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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