Tom Roberts (1856–1931) is so well known for his iconic, impressionistic Australian scenes that his skilful portraiture has been neglected. This book sets the record straight by delving into this extraordinary oeuvre, which included sitters from society, politics, everyday life and Indigenous Australians. Born in Dorchester, the inspirational pastoral setting of Thomas Hardy's novels, Roberts and fellow artists Charles Conder and Arthur Streeton established the naturalist 'Heidelberg School' in Melbourne.
In her well researched, scholarly but highly readable book, Julie Cotter gives insights into Roberts movement away from traditional portraitures, his emotional interaction with sitters, and astute scrutiny of their inner lives. The author draws attention to his arresting wooden panel paintings, and depiction of women in transition from Victorian modesty to rising independence and achievement.