Henry Smithers Hayes of the Brisbane [Steam] Mill, Parramatta Road1845

by Joseph T Dennis

Joseph Dennis, who appears to have had a background in theatrical scene painting, was a highly regarded artist during the 1840s, particularly as an historical painter. 

The Australian of 22 February 1844 called him ‘a good colourist, a correct draftsman, and an author of genius and prolific fancy’. Although portraiture was one of few comparatively profitable genres available for colonial artists, very few of Dennis’s works have survived. 

The sitter, Henry Smithers Hayes, was born in Ireland and emigrated to Sydney in 1840. He soon established a milling concern, and in 1842 he described himself as a ‘large proprietor of houses’.