Oil painting. Panoramic scene of a harbour.

Paintings from the Collection

More than 300 original artworks from the Library’s unique collection of landscape and portrait paintings on permanent public display.

Conrad Martens and George Edwards Peacock: Sydney artists

Artists have always been attracted to the natural beauty of Sydney Harbour and its foreshores.

Convict artists in the time of Governor Macquarie

Many used their art to record and interpret the landscape and people of the early settlement.

Julia Sharp, Conservation Manager, David Stein & Co, works on the painting

Arresting gaze

A compelling portrait of a young colonial woman has been given new life. 

Sydney - Capital New South Wales, ca.1800

‘A degree of neatness & regularity’: part of the Works in Focus series

Sydney — Capital New South Wales was painted around 1800 — its solid buildings and carefully laid out gardens refute the idea that it was a cesspit of depravity at a time when the city was associated with 'the awful depravity of human nature'.

An unknown warrior: mysterious portrait of an unknown, handsome young Aboriginal man

This mysterious portrait of an unknown, handsome young Aboriginal man is believed to have belonged to Governor Lachlan Macquarie, described as ‘One of the NSW Aborigines befriended by Governor Macquarie’. Part of the Works in Focus series.


Americans on campus: part of the Works in Focus series

Sydney Teacher’s College was co-located on the grounds of Sydney University where American Military Police units were billeted, describing the impact of the Americans on campus. Part of the Works in Focus series.

Man with rabbit, ca. 1910 / by George Washington Lambert

A hint of eccentricity: a beautifully rendered, somewhat playful portrait

One of Australia’s most influential artists, George Washington Lambert (1873–1930), as part of the Works in Focus series.

Sophia O'Brien, 1841 / Maurice Felton

After life: Maurice Felton’s portrait of 21-year-old Sophia

Looking at the portrait of this young woman, so full of life, you would never think it was painted after her death. But we know the sitter, posed so serenely in this picture, had died six months before it was exhibited at the artist’s Sydney studio. Part of the Works in Focus series.

More than 300 original artworks from the Library’s unique collection of landscape and portrait paintings on permanent public display. The selected works range from the 1790s to today. The exhibition features portraits of the extraordinary and the everyday, rare and recent views of Sydney and the harbour, suburban streetscapes and burgeoning rural townscapes.

Each of these paintings offers a glimpse into the artist's world - how they saw it, or how they were commissioned to portray it. They are a window into the past, but they also prompt us to ask what, and who is not visible. 


Website with grid of images

Captions and audio guides 

Discover the stories behind the paintings on your own device. 

Captions and audio guides are available at audio.sl.nsw.gov.au/paintings.

Visit Caption and Audio guides



Meet the curators

A smiling woman poses for the camera against a black background.

Louise Anemaat

Executive Director, Library and Information Services and Dixson Librarian, State Library of NSW
Louise has published and lectured widely on the Library’s collections, and has worked closely with the acquisition, processing and curation of the manuscript and pictures collections over many years. She is the author of Natural Curiosity. Unseen art of the First Fleet (NewSouth Publishing, 2014), an analysis of the traditions of natural history art production in Australia and Britain during the 18th and 19th centuries.
A smiling man poses for the camera against a black background.

Richard Neville

Mitchell Librarian, State Library of NSW
With a research background in nineteenth century Australian art and culture, Richard has curated numerous exhibitions and published widely on colonial art and society. He has also been extensively involved in the acquisition, arrangement, description and promotion of the Library’s renowned Australian research collections.
Photographic portrait of a smiling blonde woman wearing a white jacket.

Elise Edmonds

Elise is a senior curator at the State Library of New South Wales. With a background in Australian history and Museum Studies, Elise has worked with the Library’s maps, pictures and manuscript collections; acquiring, writing and promoting these to a variety of audiences. In 2009 she received a staff fellowship to research and scope the Library’s First World War collections. This led to curating several exhibitions highlighting the Library’s nationally significant First World War collections; Life Interrupted: personal diaries from World War I in 2014 and Colour in Darkness: images from the First World War in 2016. She is currently working on a final World War I exhibition examining children’s experiences during the war, planned for early 2019.
Photographic portrait of a red haired smiling woman, wearing glasses.

Margot Riley

Margot has curated numerous exhibitions and displays for the Library and contributes expertise across a variety of collection functions including research, acquisition and interpretation. She is a cultural historian with a special interest in popular culture, photography and dress and has written and lectured extensively about the Library's collections.