Press Centre

Media Release

London Centenary of Federation Launch

British Born Artist Honoured by Australian Federation Project
'In the Artist's Footsteps'

Tom Roberts, the British born artist who painted the 'Opening of the First Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia by H.R.H. The Duke of Cornwall and York, May 9, 1901', 1903, will be honoured today at Australia House in London with the launch of 'In the Artist's Footsteps', an educational Internet site as part of Australia's Centenary of Federation Celebrations.

The site at traces the life and work of Tom Roberts in both England and Australia with a special section focussing on 'The Big Picture', the opening of the first Federal Parliament, a seventeen foot canvas featuring over 250 individual portraits.

Born on 8 March 1856 at Dorchester, Dorset, England, the son of Richard Roberts, editor of the Dorset County Chronicle, Tom Roberts became a member of the Heidelberg School of Artists, the first major Art movement in Australia.

In the Artist's Footsteps is tracing the steps of Tom Roberts, who returned to London in 1903 with the painting almost completed. The painting now hangs in Parliament House, Canberra on permanent loan from the British Royal Collection.

Tom Roberts working on 'The Big Picture'
inside the Melbourne Exhibition Building c. 1901
Mitchell Library
State Library of New South Wales

Grandson Noel Roberts 78, who lives in London, will inspect the web site today for the first time at Australia House and talk about his famous grandfather.

Two other famous British born artists, Charles Conder and Walter Withers, who with Sir Arthur Streeton and Roberts had a major influence on plein air painting in Australia, are also honoured on the site.

The website is developed by an Australian based company, medialaunch Pty. Ltd., as an educational resource to celebrate Australia's Centenary of Federation.

Managing Director of medialaunch Pty. Ltd., Ron Smith today said the site would be a valuable resource in English and American classrooms where the Heidelberg School is already recognised as the first major Australian Art movement.

'The Big Picture' is one of the most historically important paintings of the period as it depicts the starting point of Australia as a nation."

Managing Editor Shirley Baynes-Smith said, "not only have we taken the story behind the painting of this major event, but we have also published the proceedings of the day, including prayers and speeches by H.R.H. The Duke of Cornwall and York, in the original format. Students and art lovers can read the text and get an indication of the atmosphere of the program."

In the Artist's Footsteps will actively promote the importance of the art works and social comment created by Tom Roberts and other painters through electronic broadcasts to thousands of schools, galleries and libraries in Australia and overseas.

"We are publishing rare photographs and letters from the artists and their families providing a unique look at their lives and contribution to art in Australia."

Mr Smith said that the site is curated by leading Australian Art Historian and Author Andrew Mackenzie, who has studied and lectured about the Heidelberg School Artists for the past twenty years, and provides a depth of detail and human interest that is not available from other sources.

Commenting on the development of 'In the Artist's Footsteps' Andrew Mackenzie said, "that apart from the provision of information, the site provides an important digital archive of rare images and personal information forever as there will never be any deterioration."

"In the Artist's Footsteps also provides an opportunity for art lovers and owners of paintings to trace the history and lives of the painters in a personal way."

Media Enquiries:
Australian Press Ron Smith Managing Director medialaunch Pty Ltd 0417 329 201
Shirley Baynes-Smith Managing Editor In the Artist's Footsteps 04
09 007 367



Left: Arthur Streeton - Above Us The Great Grave Sky, 1890
Collection: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

Copyright © Pty Ltd 2000. All Rights Reserved.
ABN 69 067 524 921
Tel: +61 3 98185700 Fax: +61 3 98185044