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Robert Dowling

Tasmanian Son of Empire

written by John Jones

National Gallery of Australia | ISBN 9780642334107

Hardback – 192 pages

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Robert Dowling (1827-1886) holds a special place in the history of Australian art as its first locally trained artist. He is known for his portraits of Australian colonial society, genre, oriental and biblical subjects, and important mid-19th century paintings of Tasmanian and Victorian Aborigines. Born in England, he migrated with his family to Tasmania at the age of seven. Showing early talent, at the age of 24, Dowling became a professional portrait painter. In 1857 he sailed for England for formal studies in London. Between 1859 and 1882, Dowling exhibited works at the Royal Academy as well as sending paintings to Australia--the earliest expatriate to do so.

This is the first publication dedicated to Dowling's work and is published in conjunction with a major retrospective. Significantly all his major Aboriginal subjects will be bought together for the first time as well as biblical and genre paintings never before publicly exhibited or published. Beautifully illustrated and designed, the book features over 60 works. It exposes the reader to a much neglected but extraordinary chapter in Australian art and offers new visual insights into interracial relations in colonial Australia.

John Jones is a curator and art historian and a former curator at the National Gallery of Australia. His publications include A Story of Australian Painting. He currently advises the Gallery on its historic picture frame restoration and recreation project.

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