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Caleb Williamson Esq.
, c 1887

by 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
Accession number: LOAN2014.3