Dorchester, England 1856 – Kallista, Victoria, Australia 1931
Mrs John St Vincent Welch
1898 Description: Sydney organist Mrs John St Vincent Welch (Emily Thackeray)
Place made: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Materials & Technique: drawings, drawing in pastel Support: buff paper
Portraiture earned Tom Roberts his living, 40 per cent of his oeuvre being in this genre which he held in low regard. Yet when he was truly engaged with his subject – especially if a beautiful lady – his portraits resulted in some of his most striking achievements.
Mrs St Vincent Welch is in pastel, a medium Roberts favoured for women because of its tonal warmth. A preparatory pencil sketch has her facing the opposite way, her face unveiled and no space between her arm and torso or between her umbrella and hem. The changes indicate the thought Roberts gave even to informal depictions.
Mrs St Vincent Welch was in accord with a run of small-scale, yet generally full-length, portraits which Roberts completed during the second half of the 1890s. This survey of famous or familial figures celebrated the native-born as much as did his landscapes and subject paintings.
Humphrey McQueen, 2002
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002