Charles RODIUSJ. G. AUSTINJ. G. AUSTIN, Tooban, Ginn, or wife, of the chief of Shoalhaven tribe. Enlarge 1 /1

Charles RODIUS

Cologne, Germany 1802 – Liverpool, New South Wales, Australia 1860

  • England 1827-29
  • Australia from 1829

J. AUSTIN

England Died

printer, lithographic

  • Australia from 1834

J. AUSTIN

England Died

publisher

  • Australia from 1834

Tooban, Ginn, or wife, of the chief of Shoalhaven tribe. 1834 Place made: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Materials & Technique: prints, ink; paper chalk-lithograph, printed in black ink, from one stone; additions in gouache Support: brown wove paper
Edition State: published state
Impression: undesignated impression as issued
Edition: print run unknown
Place Published: Sydney: J. G. Austin
Date Published: 1834

Primary Insc: no inscriptions
Secondary Insc: no inscriptions
Dimensions: printed image 16.4 h x 16.2 w cm sheet 30.2 h x 23.8 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1985
Accession No: NGA 85.8
Subject: Australia, Art period: Colonial, New South Wales Aboriginal Australians Portrait
Provenance:
  • Purchased by the Australian National Gallery, from Josef Lebovic Gallery, Sydney, 1985.

The artist Charles Rodius was one of the many convicts who were transported from England to Australia between 1788 and the middle of the 19th century. German-born, he trained in France and arrived in Sydney in 1829 after his conviction in London. His portrait Tooban, Ginn or wife of the chief of Shoalhaven tribe is one of the most sensitive portraits of Aboriginal Australians produced in the period. Rodius was a skilled graphic artist, equally at home with pencil, watercolour, charcoal or, as this work reveals, with his favoured technique of lithography.

This chalk lithograph is one of a series depicting the Indigenous peoples of Australia, all of which show his acute observation, with facial features clearly rendered. As the caption declares, the portraits were drawn ‘from nature, and on the [lithographic] stone’ by the artist. Despite this, Rodius was still greatly influenced by his classical training: the portrait of Tooban is bust length and she wears a garment reminiscent of a Roman toga.

The sense of dignity that Rodius conveys in his portraits of Aboriginal Australians is in marked contrast to those of his many contemporaries such as Thomas Balcombe or Augustus Earle.

Roger Butler


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