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Australian art

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The river (Yarra) from just below Government House



John Shirlow


13 Dec 1869 - 1936


John Shirlow was born in Sunbury, Victoria and studied at the National Gallery School 1891-94 and with Arthur Louriero in Melbourne. Shirlow pioneered etching in Australia, inspired by the collection of prints selected and purchased for the National Gallery of Victoria by the English artist Hubert Herkomer in 1891-92, particularly the etchings of James McNeill Whistler and Charles Meryon. He made his own etching tools, grounds and inks and built a wooden press out of red-gum. In turn Shirlow influenced Lionel Lindsay who wrote: 'I owe to Shirlow my first impetus to etch, for it was on seeing his little plate 'The saw mill' exhibited at the Victorian Artists Society that my student's mind was struck by the fact that etchings could actually be made in Australia'. (L Lindsay, 'Etching in Australia', pg. 296). Initially Shirlow worked as a lithographic printer. He also taught etching at the Working Men's College (now RMIT) in 1929 and was later art master at Scotch College, Melbourne. He was a trustee member of the Felton Bequest at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.

Hendrik Kolenberg and Anne Ryan, 'Australian prints from the Gallery's collection', AGNSW, Sydney 1998


Other Title

The river



Media category


Materials used

etching, printed in dark brown ink with plate tone on ivory laid paper




11.3 x 25.9 cm platemark; 16.6 x 31.5 cm sheet

Signature & date

Signed l.r., pencil "John Shirlow".
Signed and dated within plate to print l.r., "SHIRLOW/ 1902".


Purchased 1916


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

John Shirlow

Works in the collection


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 5 publications


Sasha Grishin, Australian art: a history, 'Art of federation in print', pg. 186-195, Carlton, 2013, 188 (colour illus.), 548, 568. plate no. 19.2

Hendrik Kolenberg and Anne Ryan, Australian prints from the Gallery's collection, Sydney, 1998, 29 (illus.). 13

Lionel Lindsay, 150 years of Australian art, Sydney, 1938. 627 [Gallery No. 5]

Anne Ryan, Australian etchings and engravings 1880s–1930s from the Gallery's collection, Sydney, 2007, 17, 17 (colour illus.). 21

Sydney Ure Smith, Etchings by John Shirlow, Sydney, 1917, (illus.). plate no. II; titled 'The river'