William Strutt

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For the inventor, see William Strutt (inventor).
For the Australian politician, see William Strutt (politician).
William Strutt
William Strutt by William Strutt.jpg
Self portrait of Strutt, 1845
Born 3 July 1825
Teignmouth, Devon
Died 3 January 1915
Wadhurst, Sussex
Nationality English
William Strutt, William Strutt, Mangarie (i.e. Mangaire) Taranaki, New Zealand, 1856: pencil and wash; 20.5 x 12.7 cm. National Library of Australia.

William Strutt RBA, FZS (3 July 1825 – 3 January 1915) was an English artist.[1]

Strutt was born in Teignmouth, Devon, England, and came from a family of artists, his grandfather, Joseph Strutt, was a well-known author and artist, his father, William Thomas Strutt, was a good miniature painter. William Strutt enjoyed a student life in Paris, France, and England, studying figurative and history painting. In response to a near-breakdown and problems with his eyes, Strutt decided to visit Australia, arriving 5 July 1850 on the Culloden, where he then married.

In Melbourne, Strutt found employment as an illustrator on the short-lived Illustrated Australian Magazine, published by Thomas Ham, as there was little demand for the figurative and history paintings for which he was trained. Some of his designs did, however, lead to commissions, including a design for a new postage stamp, and an Anti-Transportation League card. Despite the lack of interest for major history paintings in Melbourne, Strutt continued to sketch suitable subjects, including the ‘Black Thursday’ bushfires, which swept over the colony on 6 February 1851. It was from these sketches that Strutt composed one of his most notable paintings some 10 years later, Black Thursday, 6 February. 1851, 1864, which depicted animals and men fleeing from the fire.

William Strutt, Black Thursday, 6 February. 1851, 1864: oil on canvas; 106.5 x 343.0 cm. State Library of Victoria.

In February 1852, Strutt joined the growing tide of men travelling to the gold-fields surrounding Ballarat, Victoria. Despite working in the gold fields for eighteen months he found little success. He returned to Melbourne in mid-1853 and became actively involved in the city’s cultural scene, undertaking a number of portrait commissions and joining the Victorian Society of Fine Arts as a founding member.

William Strutt, Portrait of John Pascoe Fawkner, founder of Melbourne, 1856: oil on canvas; 61.3 x 51.2 cm. National Library of Australia.

Strutt’s interest in depicting the notable events of the colony was piqued by the events surrounding the Victorian Exploring Expedition led by Burke and Wills in 1860–61. He made several studies of their preparations at Royal Park, Melbourne, and followed the expedition to its first camp at Essendon, Victoria. Strutt also collected first-hand accounts from the rescue party and from John King, the expedition's sole survivor, upon his return.

William Strutt, Portrait of Robert O'Hara Burke, 1860: watercolour; 43.8 x 29.7 cm. National Library of Australia.

Strutt left the colony of Victoria in 1862, returning to England where he completed two major works based on Australian sketches, Black Thursday, 6 February 1851 and Bushrangers, Victoria, Australia, 1852. He continued to draw on his Australian sketches to produce major oil paintings, including The Burial of Burke. Strutt died in Wadhurst, Sussex, England on 3 January 1915.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Strutt, William". Who's Who, 57: p. 1555. 1905. 

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