About the NGV
National Gallery of Victoria

Exiles and Emigrants
Education Resource

The Journey


Tom Roberts
Coming South 1885–86

Returning to Australia, Tom Roberts travelled aboard the S S Lusitania in 1885 after four years in Europe. His sketches of the crowded deck provided the basis for this painting. Note the dual sources of power, steam and sail. All saloon passengers paid more money for the privilege of space and privacy, ensuring a more comfortable journey. To relieve the monotony and the limited world of shipboard life their day time was spent in conversation, sketching, writing letters and diaries, playing cards and games and even shooting seagulls. Their evenings were spent enjoying formal meals in splendid dinning rooms, amusing themselves with music and dancing.

Tom Roberts
born England 1856, arrived Australia 1869
lived in Europe 1881–85, 1903–19
died 1931
Coming South 1886
oil on canvas
63.5 x 52.2 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Colonel Aubrey H. L. Gibson in memory of John and Anne Gibson, settlers (1887), 1967


NGV: Art like never before