William Strutt was one of the first artists in Australia to produce large-scale history paintings. He also painted religious subjects, exhibiting these works regularly at the Royal Academy after his return to England.
A fine example of the latter, 'David’s first victory' portrays the biblical hero triumphant over the dead lion and bear, while bleating sheep and goats express their gratitude. Composed according to academic conventions, David stands at the apex of a triangle, its base formed by the lion’s body. Various studies were made for this painting, including a sketch of a lion and a bear made at the London Zoo in 1868.
The painting’s conservation and new frame were generously supported by Hyperion Asset Management 2010–11.
Place where the work was made
oil on canvas
203.5 x 111.7 cm stretcher; 229.0 x 137.0 x 6.7 cm frame :
SUPPORT; x x; stretcher dimensions
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.l., "W. Strutt 1868".
Where the work was made
Shown in 7 exhibitions
First Annual International Exhibition, Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences, London, 01 May 1871–30 Sep 1871
Centennial International Exhibition, Melbourne 1888, Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne, Melbourne, 01 Aug 1888–31 Jan 1889
Australian art in the 1870s:
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 25 Jun 1976–02 Aug 1976
- National Gallery of Victoria [St Kilda Road], Melbourne 28 Oct 1976–21 Nov 1976
William Strutt (1981):
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney Feb 1981–Mar 1981
- Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart 1981–1981
- Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane 1981–1981
- National Gallery of Victoria [St Kilda Road], Melbourne 1981–1981
Referenced in 11 publications
Clune Galleries, A selection of paintings and prints (1974), Sydney, 1974, (colour illus.).
Heather Curnow, William Strutt, 'England 1862-1915', pg. 46-60, Australia, 1980, 50, 70, 71 (illus.), 107. cat.no. 12
Heather Curnow, The life & art of William Strutt, 1825-1915, 'English trends', pg. 55-72, Martinborough, 1980, 37, 39, 56, 57, 59, 76, 144, 194 (illus.). cat.no. 45
Cedric Flower (Compilator), Erotica: aspects of the erotic in Australian art, South Melbourne, 1977, 12, 21 (illus.).
Renée Free, Art Gallery of New South Wales catalogue of British paintings, Sydney, 1987, 193 (illus.).
Renée Free and Rose Peel, Dreams and realities: Victorian works on paper, Sydney, 1993, 2.
Terry Ingram., The Australian financial review, 'A rare body of work', Sydney, 07 Nov 2002, 65. Work mentioned in relation to another Strutt painting titled 'David's first victory' to go up for auction at Christie's sale on November 26, 2002.
Anne Kirker and Peter Tomory, British painting 1800–1990 in Australian and New Zealand public collections, Sydney, 1997, 166. cat.no. 2116
Hendrik Kolenberg, 19th century Australian watercolours, drawing and pastels from the Gallery's collection, 'Introduction', pg. 6-16, Sydney, 2005, 9.
Sotheby's Australia, Important paintings from the collection of John Schaeffer A.O., Sydney, 25 August 2003, Sydney, 2003, 14. lot no. 5; another version of the AGNSW's 'David's first victory' is reproduced in colour and was auctioned through Sotheby's Sydney, on 25 August 2003 as part of the John Schaeffer collection.
Daniel Thomas, Australian art in the 1870s, 'Introduction', pg.4-6, Sydney, 1976, 16, 51 (illus.). cat.no. 12