The Opening of the First Commonwealth Parliament

Charles Nuttal1901 - 1902

Museums Victoria

Museums Victoria

Charles Nuttall was commissioned by the Historical Picture Association to paint the opening of Australia's first Federal Parliament on 9 May 1901. He was asked to paint as many recognisable faces as possible on a canvas 12 feet by 8 feet. He began work on 19 August 1901 in a studio within the Exhibition Building, and the painting was unveiled on 19 June 1902. There are 344 identifiable 'heads'.Upon completion, the painting was sent to Paris so that it could be reproduced in photogravure by the art dealership of Goupil et Cie. It was reported in the Adelaide Register at the time that the 'reproduction will be the largest ever made on a steel plate, being 42 inches in length, and the people of Australia will thus be in possession of a faithful record, painted on the spot, of the greatest event in our national history'. The majority of prints of the painting carry the name of Goupil printed in the lower right corner below the image.By March 1903, the painting had been shipped to London where photogravure prints were produced by 'Mr. James Greves, the well-known fine art publisher, of New Bridge street'. While in London, the painting was sent to Buckingham Palace so that it could be inspected by King Edward VII, before being exhibited in July at McLean's Gallery in the Haymarket.Forty 'artist's proofs' were made available for Ł15 15s, another limited run of sixty-five proofs were made available for Ł10 10s while the 'best India prints' could be bought relatively cheaply for Ł3 3s.Copies of this 'realistic' painting were reproduced and hung in public buildings, state and secondary schools, libraries, friendly society lodges and in the homes of Australians nationwide. It was this image which helped keep Federation alive in the public's mind in the first decades of the20th century.

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  • Title: The Opening of the First Commonwealth Parliament
  • Date Created: 1901 - 1902
  • Physical Dimensions: w4050 x h2260 mm
  • Type: Image
  • Rights: Copyright expired: Source: Museum Victoria / Artist: Charles Nuttall, Copyright expired: Source: Museum Victoria / Artist: Charles Nuttall
  • External Link: Museum Victoria Collections
  • Themes: paintings
  • Artist biography: Illustrator and journalist Charles Nuttall was born in Fitzroy, Melbourne, in 1872. He undertook art training at the National Gallery School in the mid 1890s and in 1896 joined the Victorian Art Society with whom he exhibited occasionally. He regularly contributed drawings to 'Punch' and the 'Bulletin', was a cartoonist for 'Table Talk' and a correspondent for the London newspaper 'Daily Graphic'. In 1905 Nuttall moved to the USA where he was employed as a staff artist at 'The New York Times', contributed to 'Life', 'Century' and 'Harper's Bazaar' magazines, and continued to contribute to journals in Australia.He returned to Melbourne in 1910, and continued to work as an illustrator and writer. He published a number of titles himself including 'Representative Australians', 'Nuttall's Christmas Annual' and 'Mr Wayback Visits the Melbourne Cup'. Charles married Leila Blackburn in 1912; they had no children. Nuttall's skills in drawing, pen-and-ink and monochrome have been attributed to his being colour blind.
  • Artist: Charles Nuttal