Collection Online
Miss Isobel McDonald
oil on canvas
46.5 × 41.8 cm
Place/s of Execution
Sydney, New South Wales
incised in paint l.l.: Tom Roberts / DEC 5 (5 underlined) / 95.
Accession Number
Australian Painting
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1957
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of The Vizard Foundation
Gallery location
Not on display
Subjects (general)
Subjects (specific)
busts (general, figures) painters (artists) profiles (figures) single-sitter portraits women (female humans) youth (people)
Australian Impressionism Heidelberg School


FRAME: Reproduction, 2007

Tom Roberts' Miss Isobel McDonald (1895) was previously framed in a simple, bevelled moulding with a painted, antiqued surface (see image above).  No date has emerged for the frame but the form and finish recall frames of the 1960s & 70s.  The proposal to reframe the painting came with the preparation of works for the exhibition 'Australian Impressionism'.

A portrait by Roberts, Eileen, now in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), appears in a photograph of the Tom Roberts memorial exhibition at the Fine Arts Society, Melbourne, 1932, in a variant of a Watts frame.  The Watts frame is synonymous with the artist G.F. Watts and was a variant of the Italian Cassetta frame, using an oak flat (gilded direct to the wood), an ornamented sight edge and raised, ornamented outer border.

The variant on Eileen carried a Watts outer border but a plain gilded flat.  The frame currently on the painting in the AGNSW is a cut down version of the 1932 frame with a stepped flat and slip.

The decision to frame Miss Isobel McDonald in a Watts frame was based on the image of Eileen from 1932.  The frame on Eileen is likely to be a product of John Thallon's Sydney counterpart, Henry W. Callan.  When John Thallon made variants of the Watts frame in Melbourne, he mistakenly built a mitred chassis and glued veneer to the surface across the mitres to appear as a butt join.  Watts frames are constructed with the oak flat assembled as a vertical butt join.  It appears the Callan variant mitred the veneered flats for the corners.

A frame carrying the label of Henry W. Callan & Son appears on Tom Roberts' Sir Henry Parkes, 1892, in the Art Gallery of South Australia.  Measurements and moulds were taken in 2006 and this frame was used as the pattern for the Miss Isobel McDonald reproduction frame.

The frame was completed and fitted to the painting in February 2007.

Reproduction - commissioned by the NGV

Wooden chassis with cast composition moulding.  Surface gilded and toned.