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Captain Arthur Phillipc 1787

by Francis Wheatley

Francis Wheatley painted this portrait of Arthur Phillip before his departure with the First Fleet in 1787. Wheatley has posed his subject holding a document inscribed with the words ‘New South Wales, 1787’.

Carrying almost 1500 people, roughly half of whom were convicts, the First Fleet arrived at Botany Bay, on Australia’s east coast, in January 1788. Within days Phillip relocated to Sydney Cove, the site of modern Sydney.

Despite the extreme deprivation of the colony’s early years and critical shortages of food and supplies, Phillip, almost alone among his men, held on to a vision of Sydney as a place of strategic benefit to Britain and a thriving township. In 1789 his account of the voyage and the colony was published. He returned to England in 1792.

This is one of two portraits of Phillip by Wheatley, painted to mark his appointment as the first Governor of New South Wales.