Collection Online
The first cloud
oil on canvas
134.8 × 193.7 cm
Accession Number
International Painting
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1887
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
19th Century European Paintings Gallery
Level 2, NGV International

Purchased from the artist by Thomas Agnew & Sons (dealer), London, 27 April 1887, stock no. 4465; from where purchased, on the advice of Edward Langton, for the NGV, 2 May 1887.

Exhibited Royal Academy, London, 1887, no. 291; Second Intercolonial Exhibition, Sydney, 1896, no. 3; Royal Academy, London, 1968–69, no. 329; Sir William Quiller Orchardson RA, organised by the Scottish Arts Council, Edinburgh (and touring), 1972, no. 49; Sex, Sentiment and Symbol: Representations of Women in Victorian Art, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, New Zealand, 1998–99; Love and Death, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 2001.

Exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1887, The first cloud is one of William Quiller Orchardson’s finest commentaries on the social life and manners of his time. Orchardson observes a couple who have just returned from an evening out (they are elegantly attired, but there is no fire in the grate). The evening has turned sour, however, the implication being that this cloud is but the first in a storm that threatens to engulf their marriage.


FRAME: Original, maker unknown

The frame on The first cloud is contemporary with the painting and came into the collection with the painting in 1887. It is a large format Academy frame.
The richly ornamented cassetta form makes reference to Italian frames of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Unknown - 19th century

timber, composition, gold leaf


good original condition

188 x 247 x 23 cm