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image icon 'The artist and his family'

'The artist and his family'
Art Gallery of South Australia

Description

This is an oil painting, measuring 47.7 cm x 66.0 cm, by the South Australian colonial artist Charles Hill (1824-1915). It shows the artist's family gathered for lunch in an outdoor setting that looks very much like a contemporary style patio - there are plants growing on a trellis, a climbing Sturt's desert pea and a grape vine. The children are dressed in their 'Sunday best' and the table is laid out with cutlery, crockery and food, including a loaf of bread, a leg of ham and a roast duck. The three oldest children sit rather stiffly, while on the other side of the table the younger children are playing - the baby with its mother, a young girl with her father (the artist), and a boy with a dog.

Educational value

This resource is useful because it:

  • is a commemorative family portrait - portraiture and family portraits in particular constitute a large and significant body of Australian colonial art; over half of all paintings produced up until the latter part of the colonial period were portraits
  • expresses a sense of pride and achievement in settling into a new country - the formal arrangement of the figures, table setting and garden implements (at left of picture) imply that for this family, migration to Australia has been fruitful in every sense of the word
  • references a particular family and location - Charles Hill and his family lived on Adelaide's South Terrace, which faced onto the Adelaide Hills (seen in the background of this painting)
  • provides an insight into the family life of an artist who made a significant public contribution to the development of the visual arts within colonial South Australia - Hill was instrumental in establishing the South Australian Society of Arts (1856), which founded the colony's first art school in 1861, with Hill as its first art master; this society also initiated the establishment of the Art Gallery of South Australia in 1881
  • is presented in an outdoor setting, which suggests that early in the colonial period settlers had begun to adjust to South Australia's Mediterranean climate and to adopt a more relaxed lifestyle
  • invites comparison between contemporary domestic lifestyles and those of colonial times, particularly eating out of doors, and the behaviour of children and young adults in social settings.