Commander Robert Johnston RN1856

by Richard Noble

Artist Richard Noble was one of the most accomplished portrait painters working in Sydney in the 1850s.

Commander Robert Johnston was born in Sydney in 1792, the second son of Lieutenant-Colonel George Johnston of the NSW Corps and his ex-convict wife. Educated in England, he was the first Australian-born person to serve in the British Navy, beginning his career at the age of 11. He saw active service in Europe and America, including the storming of Cadiz and the capture of Washington city. His obituary recorded that he was ‘a participator in some of the most conspicuous events that followed the close of the eighteenth century’.

He returned to Sydney in 1816, where he became a successful pastoralist.

This large oil painting was in part a celebration of the colonial success of the Johnston family dynasty. The family had also commissioned a large oil of their patriarch George Johnston a few years earlier.