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The monopolist

oil on canvas
51.1 × 61.0 cm
inscribed in grey paint (on tablecloth) c.r.: RWB (monogram) uss. / 1840
Accession Number
International Painting
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1877
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of Digitisation Champion Ms Carol Grigor through Metal Manufactures Limited
Gallery location
Not on display

Exhibited Society of British Artists, London, 1840, no. 359; collection of Robert Napier (1796–1876), London, Glasgow and West Shandon Strathclyde, by 1857, until 1876; Estate of Robert Napier, until 1877; included in the first portion of the Robert Napier sale (Shandon Collection), Christie's, London, 11–20 April 1877 (sold 14 April), no. 548; from where purchased, on the advice of Sir Archibald Michie, for the NGV, 1877.

Exhibited Society of British Artists, London, 1840, no. 359; Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition, Manchester, 1857, no. 389, owner R. Napier

Like many Australian artists, Septimus Power sought to study and further his artistic career in Europe, becoming one of the more successful emigres. He trained in Paris at the famed Académie Julian between 1905 and 1907, then moved to England where he specialised as a painter of animals. From 1908–35 he exhibited dozens of paintings at the RA, including this work, only his second successful entry to the RA exhibition in 1911. Power was appointed as an Official War Artist and later played a role in establishing the art collection of the Australian War Memorial.
Robert Buss’ painting offers a gentle comedy of manners that perhaps illustrates the injustice of the trade protection policies in Britain in the first half of the nineteenth century. Tariffs against imports kept prices of basic goods artificially high in England, to the profit of landowners and cost of the poor. Supporters of free trade were stifled by repressive measures, including a gag on the press. Buss, whose own finances were shaky at the time of painting this scene, portrays access to basic commodities such as warmth and even the daily news as a privilege of the rich. Reform in favour of free trade took place in 1846.


Centre reverse of canvas
Ink stencil
More information
National Portrait Gallery