Sydney Harbour from Cumberland Place watercolour

Charles Rodius

The first ever retrospective of 19th century Australia's best unknown artist, Charles Rodius (1802–1860). The exhibition brings together over 90 original watercolours, drawings and prints — many never seen by Australian audiences — from public and private collections in Australia and the UK, including the Library’s own unrivalled collection.

Exhibition Information

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Free
Exhibition Galleries

1 Shakespeare Place
Sydney NSW 2000
Australia
+61 2 9273 1414

The first ever retrospective of 19th century Australia's best unknown artist, Charles Rodius (1802–1860).

The exhibition brings together over 90 original watercolours, drawings and prints — many never seen by Australian audiences — from public and private collections in Australia and the UK, including the Library’s own unrivalled collection.

Rodius arrived in NSW in 1829 as a convict after being sentenced in London for stealing a lady's handbag at the opera. He worked for a short time for the Colonial Architect’s Office, and his sketches of Sydney Harbour and renderings of settlers’ houses from this period can be seen in the exhibition.

He resumed his portraiture and teaching work after being granted a ticket-of-exemption in 1832, just as the colony was experiencing an influx of English colonists who eagerly sought images of the colony to send back to their families in Europe. 

While his core clientele was drawn from the public service and professional classes, Rodius’ sitters also included people from all walks of life, including recognisable public figures such as Garigal leader Bungaree, Jamaican ferryman Billy Blue, explorer Ludwig Leichhardt, a young Henry Parkes and more.

View a selection of portraits from the exhibition

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Curator

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Dr. David Hansen

Dr. David Hansen worked as a regional gallery director, a State museum curator and an art auction house researcher and specialist; from 2014 to 2022 he was Associate Professor at the Centre for Art History and Art Theory at the Australian National University. With over 30 years’ experience in the visual arts and museums sector, Dr Hansen curated more than 80 exhibitions, while his writings on art have been widely published in newspapers, magazines, scholarly journals, exhibition catalogues and books, including the award-winning John Glover and the Colonial Picturesque (2003) and Dempsey’s People (2017). Hansen was also the inaugural Ross Steele AM Fellow in 2020, for his project: Pictures in the Collections of the State Library of NSW. Tragically David passed away, after a brief illness, on 13 January 2024. The Library acknowledges David’s exemplary contributions to scholarship and his friendship and generosity to his many friends and colleagues in Australia and overseas.