Thomas BOCK, Mary Anne Vicary (Mrs John Roberts) Enlarge 1 /1

Thomas BOCK

Sutton Coldfield, England 1790 – Hobart, Tasmania, Australia 1855

  • Australia from 1824

Mary Anne Vicary (Mrs John Roberts) [No title (Portrait of Mrs John Roberts, formerly Miss Vicary of "Rostrevor", East Coast Tasmania)] c.1845 Place made: Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Materials & Technique: drawings, drawing in crayon, chalk, charcoal and watercolour wash Support: paper

Primary Insc: no inscriptions
Dimensions: sheet and image 35.8 h x 30.4 w cm sight 33.9 h x 28.5 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1980
Accession No: NGA 80.3314
Provenance:
  • Purchased by the Australian National Gallery, from Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne, October 1980.

This portrait of Mary Ann Vicary is typical of Thomas Bock’s best work. Active as an engraver, lithographer, painter and photographer, Bock is best known for his portrait drawings. A convict, he arrived in Hobart in 1824 and died there in 1855. He was one of the few convicts to live out his days in his place of exile and he died a respected artist.

For this portrait, Bock positioned his sitter, a young woman in her early 20s, turned three-quarters towards the viewer, conveying a calm and confident demeanour.

Mary Ann Vicary was born in about 1823 and arrived in Van Diemen’s Land in 1828. In 1841 she married John Roberts, a Hobart Town solicitor and son of a Welsh clergyman. Mary Roberts wears the pleated V-neck and flounced sleeve typical of the period. One might imagine John Roberts, proud of his new wife, commissioning the portrait.

Bock invariably used chalk and charcoal on dark paper, with highlights of white and, in this case, coloured crayon for the highlights of the gold chains. Another of Bock’s hallmarks was his use of watercolour wash for the eyes. He was perhaps the finest portrait artist to work in Tasmania in the nineteenth century.


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

Mary Ann Vicary was born in c.1823 and arrived in Van Diemen’s Land in 1828. She grew up on the property ‘Rostrevor’ on the east coast of Tasmania. She married John Roberts (1813–99), a Hobart Town solicitor and son of a Welsh clergyman, on 1 May 1841, at St David’s Church. She died on 24 May 1903, aged 80.

The portrait is typical of Thomas Bock’s work: a bust with the sitter turned three-quarters to us. His subject appears a calm, confident and pretty young woman in her early 20s. One might imagine John Roberts, proud of his new wife, commissioning the portrait from the artist who had previously drawn Jane, Lady Franklin, wife of the Lieutenant-Governor. Mary Roberts wears the pleated v-neck and flounced sleeve seen in several portraits of the period.

Bock invariably used chalk and charcoal on a dark paper, with highlights of white and, in this case, coloured crayon for the highlights of the gold chains. Another of Bock’s hallmarks was his use of watercolour wash for the eyes. He was perhaps the finest portrait artist to work in Tasmania in the 19th century. A convict, he arrived in Hobart in 1824 and died there in 1855. He was one of the few convicts to live out his days in his place of exile and he died a respected artist in Hobart society. Bock was an engraver, lithographer, painter and photographer but most know him from portrait drawings such as this.

By the end of his life, Bock was experimenting with daguerreotypes and photography and, with this innovation, portraiture was to change forever. His chalk portraits might then be cherished for the very reason that they represent such a brief but appealing period of our early art history.

Philippa Kelly 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