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image icon 'Eliza Langhorne'

'Eliza Langhorne'
Art Gallery of South Australia


This is a portrait from about 1849, attributed to Thomas Bock (1790-1855). Painted in oils on canvas and measuring 92 cm x 71 cm, the work shows a formally dressed young girl looking away from the viewer. She nurses an equally well-dressed ‘lady’ doll, which was a characteristic doll design for this period in time.

Educational value

This resource is useful because it:

  • is an excellent example of the portrait skills of Thomas Bock, one of Tasmania's first professional artists, who was transported to Tasmania as a convict in 1824 - Bock initially trained as an engraver and later taught himself miniature painting and portraiture, specialising in young people and children
  • shows a work by a very enterprising convict artist - in 1824 Bock was commissioned to design and engrave the new £4 bill for the Bank of Van Diemen's Land; he also explored the potential of photography
  • illustrates methods used by portrait artists of the period, including the spotlit figure in front of a dark background and the use of the colour red as an accent to unify the composition; the pose of the figure, who is shown gazing into the distance and away from the viewer, hints at private thoughts
  • demonstrates a particular feature of Bock's portraits - the eyes of his subjects were usually enlarged and have been described as 'lustrous and of uniform shape'; his female subjects have been described as 'sloe-eyed, wistful-looking damsels'
  • indicates something of the life of a young colonist - four-year-old Eliza Langhorne lived in Victoria and posed for this painting while visiting Tasmania with her family; the result is a reassuring emblem of childhood charm and family prosperity
  • provides a detailed illustration of children's clothing and the design of dolls of the period - this is an adult 'lady' doll; the Great Exhibition in London in 1851 saw the first appearance of infant dolls with wide round heads and plump limbs
  • is an image of childhood that appears to be shaped by adult fashions and expectations, and which invites curiosity about the life story of the sitter.