Collection Online
oil on canvas
66.4 × 56.5 cm
inscribed in brown paint l.l.: Tom Roberts 19'
Accession Number
Australian Painting
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1920
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of The Vizard Foundation
Gallery location
Gallery 7
Level 2, NGV Australia
Subjects (general)
Subjects (specific)
half figures hand sewing profiles (figures) single-sitter portraits women (female humans)
Australian Impressionism Heidelberg School


This is the only frame by Lillie Williamson (Mrs. Tom Roberts) identified in the collection.1 It is a beautifully crafted synthesis of Art Nouveau and seventeenth-century Dutch styles, carved as a whole from a well joined timber chassis.2 It is surely one of the most beautiful frames in the collection. Though it forms a harmonious relationship with the painting it may not have been intended to frame it. The rebate is larger than needed and the tacking fold of the painting has been opened out to increase the dimensions of the painting top and right, possibly to accommodate the frame.3


1 For a more detailed account of the work of Lillie Williamson see Pamela Clelland Gray, ‘A Pioneer of Australian Framing: An introduction to the work of Lillie Williamson’, Art Bulletin of Victoria, no. 34, 1994.

2 The NGV holds a number of drawings for frame designs by Lillie Williamson in the Department of Prints and Drawings. None of the drawings are for the frame shown here, but aspects of the design can be seen in other frames. The drawings themselves give an insight into the working process, including dimensions, profiles and some construction details. They are mostly life-size, for transcription to the timber for the purpose of carving.

3 The frame and painting are reproduced in ‘The Framer’s Art’ by Ernest Fysh, the Australian Home Beautiful, 1 May, 1931, p. 32, which remains the primary source of identification of the maker. The frame and painting appear again in a photograph of the Tom Roberts Memorial Exhibition held at the Fine Art Society, Melbourne, 1932.

Lillie Williamson

The frame is carved from an assembly of timber with half-mitre, lapped corner joints and gilded with false gold, on red bole, over a white gesso. The corner joinery is almost completely hidden in the frame. It is intended to provide a rigid base from which the frame is carved after the sections have been assembled. The construction is sophisticated and thoughtful, a fine piece of joinery as well as an example of skilled carving.


Good original condition. The surface has oxidised and worn through on the high spots, though it would be reasonable to consider that the frame would have carried some form of ‘softening’ of the surface and that its current appearance might not be radically different from what was intended.

79.0 x 68.5 x 4.8 cm; sight 63.5 x 53.0 cm