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Australian art

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Smike Streeton age 24



Tom Roberts

England, Australia

08 Mar 1856 - 14 Sep 1931


Tom Roberts' portrait of his close friend and colleague Arthur Streeton was made in Sydney in 1891, and Roberts kept it until his death. It is a 'friendship portrait' – informal and highly personal, expressive of the bond of camaraderie and respect between the two artists.

Roberts probably painted the oil while camping with Streeton at Little Sirius Cove on Sydney Harbour. Although Roberts is perhaps better known for his grand subject paintings and landscapes during the 1890s, he was also an outstanding portrait painter. Over a third of his artistic output was devoted to portraiture, and throughout his life he largely supported himself through commissions in this genre.


Place where the work was made

Sydney New South Wales Australia



Media category


Materials used

oil on canvas


45.7 x 35.7 cm stretcher; 61.5 x 51.5 x 6.0 cm frame

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.l. corner, incised "TOM ROBERTS 91.".


Purchased 1945

Accession number


Artist information

Tom Roberts

Artist profile

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 14 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 41 publications


Leigh Ashtbury, Tom Roberts, 'Masculinity and Modernity', pg. 124, Adelaide, 1996, 138, 139 (colour illus.), 203 (illus.).

Alison Barclay, Herald Sun, 'Artist's secret love', pg. 18, Port Melbourne, 13 Jun 2007, 18 (colour illus.).

Jane Clark, Golden summers: Heidelberg and beyond, 'Sydney Harbour', pg. 151-152, Melbourne, 1985, 154 (colour illus.).

Sarah Engledow, Impressions: painting light & life, Catalogue essay, pg. 7-16, Canberra, 2011, 11, 72 (caption), 73 (colour illus.). 28

Elizabeth Fortescue, Daily telegraph, 'Love's lasting impress', pg. 84, Sydney, 16 Jun 2007, 84 (colour illus.).

Janet Hawley, Good Weekend, 'Tom Roberts Bailed Up', pg. 32-39, Sydney, 24 Feb 1996, 37 (colour illus.).

Jeanette Hoorn, Reframing Darwin: evolution and the arts in Australia, 'Tom Roberts' portrait of Charlie Turner and Darwin's expression of the emotions in man and animals', pg. 118-135, Carlton, 2009, 128 (colour illus.).

Melissa Iaria, Courier Mail, 'Secret love long lost, but its ghost lingers', pg. 4, Queensland, 13 Jun 2007, 4 (colour illus.).

Pat Kreuiter, Look, 'Learning to look at art: Introducing and inspiring art lovers of the future', pg. 12-13, Sydney, Oct 2008, 12 (colour illus.). A group of school children are pictured in front of the painting.

Terence Lane, Age, 'Southern lights', pg. 14, Melbourne, 24 Mar 2007, 14 (illus.).

Jeff Rigby., Oz Arts magazine [issue 9], 'Fire's on: the circumstances surrounding the painting by Arthur Streeton of 'Fire's on!' and the Lapstone railway tunnel deviation of 1891', Wentworth Falls, Spring 2016, (colour illus.).

Terry Smith, Australian cultural history, 'Populism and Privilege in Australian Painting', pg. 190-210, Cambridge, 1988, cover (illus.), 195-96, 206 (illus.). plate no. 6

Daniel Thomas, Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly, 'Tom Roberts', pg. 466-487, Sydney, Jul 1969, 469 (illus.), 471.

Angus Trumble, Australian Impressionism, 'Colony and Capital in Australian Impressionist Portraiture', pg. 181-187, Melbourne, 2007, 186, 335, 192 (colour illus.). 10.9

Robin Usher, Age, 'A Florry of activity', pg. 16, Melbourne, 13 Jun 2007, 16 (colour illus.).

Robin Usher, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Smike ♥ Florry: Streeton's hidden message of love', pg. 11, Sydney, 13 Jun 2007, 11 (colour illus.).

Vivienne Webb, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Golden age', pg. 37-38, Sydney, 2000, 38, 45 (colour illus.), 300.

Paintings of Tom Roberts, Adelaide, 1962, 20, 21 (colour illus.). titled 'Smike'; plate missing from AGNSW copy

The Adelaide Festival of Arts 1962: Special exhibitions at the National Gallery of South Australia, 'Australian Painting: Colonial, Impressionist, Contemporary', Adelaide, 1962. titled 'Portrait of Arthur Streeton'; 53; not paginated

A retrospective exhibition of Australian painting, Sydney, 1953. titled 'Athur Streeton'; 58

Tom Roberts exhibition, National Art Gallery of NSW: souvenir catalogue, Sydney, 1947, 11. titled ‘Sir Arthur Streeton’; 13

Streeton memorial exhibition souvenir catalogue, Sydney, 1945, (illus.).

Tom Roberts, 'Harmonic arrangements: Tom Roberts' painting' Anne Gray, pg. 31-60, Canberra, 2015, 45, 186 (colour illus.), 187, 223, 350. 57

To paint a war: The lives of the Australian artists who painted the Great War, 1914-1918, Port Melbourne, 2017, 3 (colour illus.).

A memorial exhibition of paintings by the late Tom Roberts (1932), Melbourne, 1932. titled ‘Portrait, Arthur Streeton, 1881’; 45; not paginated

Art Gallery of New South Wales: highlights from the collection, Sydney, 2008, 59 (colour illus.).

Art of Australia. Vol 1: Exploration to Federation, ‘The only truly representative Australian school of painting’, pg. 357-418, Sydney, 2008, 395 (colour illus.).

19th century Australian watercolours, drawing and pastels from the Gallery's collection, Sydney, 2005, 84 (colour illus.).

unknown author, Look, 'Tom Roberts', pg. 14, Heidelberg, Apr 1997, 7 (illus.), 15 (colour illus.).

Tom Roberts, Sydney, 1996, 640.

The artists' camps 'plein air' painting in Australia, Victoria, 1992, 58 (colour illus.). plate no. 61

Uncommon Australians: towards an Australian portrait gallery, Sydney, 1992, 80 (colour illus.).

Bohemians in the bush: the artists' camps of Mosman, Sydney, 1991, 78-79. 63

Famous Australian Art - Tom Roberts 1856-1931, Brisbane, 1987, 41 (colour illus.).

Images in opposition: Australian landscape painting 1801–1890, 'The artist in society', pg. 1-22, Melbourne, 1985, 19 (illus.), 175. titled 'Arthur Streeton'

Tom Roberts 1856-1931: a catalogue raisonné. Volume 2 - Plates, Melbourne, 1985, (colour illus.). plate no. 82

Tom Roberts 1856-1931: a catalogue raisonné. Volume 1 - Text, Melbourne, 1985, 120, 121. 173

Place, taste and tradition: a study of Australian art since 1788, 'Impressionism in Australia', pg. 112-145, South Melbourne, 1979, 2 (illus.), 11. frontispiece

Tom Roberts, 'Roberts' portraiture', pg. 104-120, Melbourne, 1978, 109 (colour illus.), 117. plate no. 29

The golden age of Australian painting - Impressionism and the Heidelberg school, Melbourne, 1969, (colour illus.). plate no. 30

Australian painting: colonial, impressionist, contemporary, Adelaide, 1962, 40. 47