Cologne, Germany 1802 – Liverpool, New South Wales, Australia 1860
Tooban, Ginn, or wife, of the chief of Shoalhaven tribe.
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
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.
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