Algernon Talmage

The Founding of Australia 1788


In Tate Modern

Level 3: A Year in Art: Australia 1992

Level 3: A Year in Art: Australia 1992
Algernon Talmage 1871–1939
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 2290 × 3200 mm
Presented by Frank Albert 1937

Display caption

This painting was commissioned for the 150th anniversary of the landing of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove under the leadership of Captain Arthur Phillip. Six of the eleven ships were convict transports. The purpose of the voyage was to establish a penal colony, which later became the city of Sydney. Phillip was appointed by the British authorities as the first Governor of the New South Wales colony, which began the British colonisation of Australia. Talmage’s rose-tinted imagining of the founding moment does not include any of the Eora people whose Country the settlers landed on, nor any of the transported convicts.

Gallery label, July 2021

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Catalogue entry


Inscr. ‘A. Talmage ’37' b.l.

Canvas, 89×125 1/2 (226×319).

Presented by Frank Albert 1937.

Coll: Commissioned by the donor.
Exh: R.A., 1937 (146), as ‘The Founding of Australia by Capt. Arthur Philip [sic] R.N. Saturday, 26 January 1788’.
Repr: Royal Academy Illustrated, 1937, p.51.

The subject was suggested to Frank Albert of Sydney by D. Hope Johnston, founder and ex-President of the Australasian Pioneers' Club, Sydney, who supplied the historical details. After its presentation to the Tate Gallery the picture was exhibited in Sydney to commemorate the 150th anniversary of its foundation.

The First Governor and Captain-General of New South Wales was Captain Arthur Phillip, R.N. The scene is Sydney Cove and the Governor (in the centre) is about to propose the health of King George III after the hoisting of the Union Jack and the Guard of Marines' salute. The other principal figures are Captain David Collins (with his foot on a tree-trunk), founder and First Governor of Tasmania, and Lieutenant Henry L. Ball, Commander of the Brig Supply, the first vessel to enter Sydney Harbour (right). Others, from left to right, are: (3) Midshipman Stephen Donovan; (6) Lieutenant Newton Powell; (7) David Blackburn, Master, all of the Supply; (8) Lieutenant Philip Gidley King of the Flagship Sirius; and (9) Lieutenant George Johnston, afterwards Administrator of the Colony.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, II

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