We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Portrait of Elizabeth Wills (née Porter)



Joseph Backler


circa 1813 – 22 Oct 1895

Alternate image of Portrait of Elizabeth Wills (née Porter) by Joseph Backler
Alternate image of Portrait of Elizabeth Wills (née Porter) by Joseph Backler
  • Details

    Media category
    Materials used
    oil on canvas
    76.8 x 64.1 cm stretcher; 93.5 x 81.0 cm frame
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Gift of Greg Waters in recognition of the Wills Family 2016. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
    Naala Nura, ground level, Grand Courts
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Joseph Backler

    Works in the collection


  • About

    London-born convict artist and portrait painter, Joseph Backler was transported for life to the colony of New South Wales in 1831 for forgery. In 1842 he was granted a ticket-of-leave and the following year advertised in Sydney as a 'Portrait, Miniature and Landscape Painter, in oils and watercolours'. Backler spent the following 50 years establishing himself across NSW and Queensland as a skilled portrait painter.

    His clientele were mostly from the middle echelons of colonial society, who commissioned the artist to produce accurate depictions of family members. In 1858 Backler completed two portraits of John Thomas Wills (1824–60) and his wife Elizabeth Wills (née Porter, 1825–1908). Elizabeth Porter, one of nine children to convicted forgers Thomas and Sarah Porter, was born in Sydney and married John Wills in 1847. When John died 13 years later, Elizabeth cared for their 8 children with the substantial endowment left to her. Backler portrays Elizabeth elegantly attired in a black dress with a fine lace collar adorned with a jewelled brooch. The book held in her right hand indicates her educated, middle-class status.

Other works by Joseph Backler

See all 5 works