Thomas G. WAINEWRIGHT, The Cutmear sisters, Jane and Lucy. Enlarge 1 /1

Thomas WAINEWRIGHT

Richmond, England 1794 – Hobart, Tasmania, Australia 1847

  • Australia from 1837

The Cutmear sisters, Jane and Lucy. [(The Cutmear twins, Jane and Lucy)] c.1842 Place made: Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Materials & Technique: drawings, drawing in black pencil with watercolour washl Support: paper mounted on cardboard
Manufacturer's Mark: presence of manufacturer's mark undetermined due to secondary support.

Primary Insc: no inscriptions.
Secondary Insc: no inscriptions.
Dimensions: image 25.4 h x 27.6 w cm sheet 32.4 h x 30.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1969
Accession No: NGA 69.121
Provenance:
  • Collection of grand-daughter 1938.
  • Collection of Mrs A.E. Seager [Jean Saegar ?], Adelaide Street, Hobart to 1954.
  • Purchased by Miss Myra Fitzpatrick of Westbury, Tasmania, from 'Sale of antique rosewood, mahogany and walnut furniture, and china', Hobart: Burn & Son [auctioneers], 132 Collins Street, Hobart, 9 March 1954, lot. 127. as 'The Cutmear Twins' Sold for $150. [Mercury (Hobart), 10 March 1954, p.7, col.1-4, ill. (shows inner edge of new frame).
  • Purchased by the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board (C.A.A.B.], from Clune Galleries, Sydney, 1969.

Thomas Griffiths Wainewright was one of a number of convicts and ex-convicts who made portrait drawings in the early colony of Australia. A recognised artist and renowned essayist in England, Wainewright spent the last 10 years of his life in Hobart, where he had been transported for life following a conviction for forgery. He was also suspected of murdering three family members for financial gain, but this was never proven. Although his means restricted him to watercolour, pencil and paper, he painted over 50 portraits during his final decade—some in gratitude for kindnesses bestowed on him, others by commission. He made this portrait as a token of gratitude to the father of the Cutmear sisters who, as gatekeeper of the Prisoners’ Barracks where Wainewright was imprisoned, supplied him with materials.

The sisters transfix us with their gaze; Jane regards us with a slightly shy and quizzical look, while Lucy’s gaze, from beneath a wayward curl, is straight and sure. Wainewright’s delicate pencil lines and sensitive brush strokes meticulously detail the twins’ faces and groomed hair, and give only cursory treatment to their clothing. Both girls share the cupid’s bow lips that Wainwright imparted to almost all his subjects— a feature that momentarily detracts from the twins’ childhood innocence. Wainewright’s portrait takes on retrospective poignancy, as we know that Jane died in 1845 aged 12 and Lucy died in 1854 aged 21.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014

Thomas Griffiths Wainewright was one of a number of convicts and ex-convicts who made portrait drawings in the early years of the Australian colonies. Wainewright, who was a recognised artist and renowned essayist in England, spent his last ten years in Hobart. His transportation for life to Van Diemen’s Land in 1837 followed his conviction for forgery and for attempting to defraud the Bank of England. Although his means restricted him to watercolour, pencil and paper, he painted over 50 portraits during the final decade of his life – some in gratitude for kindnesses bestowed upon him, others by commission. He made this portrait as a token of gratitude to the girls’ father, who, as gatekeeper of the Prisoners’ Barracks where Wainewright was imprisoned, supplied him with materials.

The young girls Jane and Lucy transfix us with their gaze. Jane, her head slightly tilted, regards us from behind her sister with a slightly shy, yet quizzical look, as if momentarily distracted. Lucy’s gaze is straight and sure – a wayward curl over her forehead makes us wonder if she is more concerned with holding our attention than with her appearance.

Wainewright is confident in the application of delicate pencil lines and sensitive brush strokes. In following the popular portrait style of the period, he meticulously detailed the twins’ young faces and carefully groomed hair, and gave only a cursory treatment to their clothing. To both girls he gave small cupid’s-bow lips a very feminine and sensual characteristic which he imparted to almost all his subjects – which momentarily detracts from the twins’ childhood innocence. Wainewright’s portrait takes on a certain poignancy retrospectively, as we know that Jane died in 1845 aged 12 and Lucy died in 1854 aged 21.


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