Exiles and Emigrants
Epic Journeys to Australia in the Victorian Era
Thomas Robertson
born Scotland 1819
lived in Australia 1853-62
died Japan 1873
Red Jacket, Lightning and James Baines in Hobson's Bay c.1856
oil on wood panel
91.9 x 152.3 cm
Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney

During the reign of Queen Victoria (1837–1901) almost fifteen million people left the British Isles in search of a better life. Exiles and Emigrants is the first art exhibition to focus on the issue of emigration during this extraordinary chapter of Australian history.

This powerful exhibition traces the various reasons that drove people from their homeland; the devastating potato famine in Ireland; the highland clearances in Scotland; and the agrarian revolution in England. It also explores the stories of the emigrants: their long, difficult voyage to a faraway land and their struggles to settle in the harsh, often unforgiving Australian climate.

The exhibition will include major works drawn from public and private collections in the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, United States of America and Australia and approximately 20 fascinating objects.

Of exceptional note is the loan of The Last of England by Ford Madox Brown, a masterpiece of the Pre-Raphaelite movement and arguably the most important image of emigration ever painted. It represents the Pre-Raphaelite sculptor Thomas Woolner, his wife and child leaving England en route to Melbourne in 1852. This work was recently voted one of Britain’s favourite works, in a special poll conducted by BBC.


09 Dec 200526 Mar 2006 The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square