Important Australian + International Fine Art
1 December 2022


(1856 - 1931)

oil on wood panel (double–sided)

19.5 x 25.5 cm

signed and inscribed lower left: T.L.M/ Tom Roberts

$120,000 – $160,000
Sold for $147,273 (inc. BP) in Auction 72 - 1 December 2022, Melbourne

Private collection, Sydney
Rushton Fine Arts, Sydney, 7 July 1987, lot 83 (as ’Portrait of Elaine’)
Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne
Private collection, Brisbane
Deutscher and Hackett, Melbourne, 9 May 2007, lot 32
Private collection, Sydney


Selected Australian Impressionist Paintings, Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne, 18 April – 12 May 1990, cat. 3 (illus., as ’Elaine’, c.1896)


Cotter, J., Tom Roberts and the Art of Portraiture, Thames & Hudson, Melbourne, 2015, pp. 20, 21 (illus. Coastal Landscape) 238, 243 (illus. Portrait of Eileen)

Catalogue text

We are grateful to Brenda Martin Thomas, wife of the late David Thomas AM, for kindly allowing us to reproduce David’s research and writing in this catalogue entry.

Tom Roberts was a gifted portrait painter who created grand images of bushrangers and shearers that have entered the national pantheon. For The Opening of the First Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia by H.R.H. The Duke of Cornwall and York (Later King George V) 9 May 1901, 1903 (Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra) he was required to sketch and paint nearly three hundred portraits, working directly from the model. Numerous other portraits date from before and after this ‘Big Picture’, notable for their portrayal of character and life. During the 1890s he completed a series of male portraits on cedar or oak panels – of composers, musicians, actors, all carried out with a Whistlerian elegance and finesse. His portraits of women are invariably full of charm and beauty, whether a lady of fashion as in The Paris Hat, 1892 (New England Regional Art Museum, Howard Hinton Collection), or a disarming child such as Lily Stirling, c.1890 (National Gallery of Victoria).

The present portrait is identified as Mrs Eileen Tooker on the basis of its similarity to Roberts’ celebrated work, Eileen, 1892, in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. (Significantly, the Gallery purchased Eileen the year it was painted, making it, together with Aboriginal Head- Charlie Turner, c.1892, the first works by Roberts to enter a public collection.) Both profile portraits of this striking Irish woman depict the same strong facial features, prominent nose and chin, similar hairstyles and large hats. Moreover, the beautifully fresh, smaller version on offer has all the immediacy of a study from life – pink flesh tones and red and white highlights against a darkly warm background. Roberts often enjoyed the profile, adopting it for a number of other portraits of the time, including the already mentioned The Paris Hat, At the Post Office, 1892 and Portrait of a Lady, 1892, whose features are not entirely unfamiliar. His male portraits for 1892 included Sir Henry Parkes (Art Gallery of South Australia) and Sir Charles Windeyer.

The reverse of the panel has an equally vivid, broadly handled landscape, possibly of New South Wales – its smallness of scale in no way diminishing its bravura performance. Notably, from the summer through to autumn of 1891, Roberts was at Corowa painting his iconic A Break Away, 1891 (Art Gallery of South Australia) and the landscape here betrays a similarly sun-drenched atmosphere, with the deep blue waters suggesting a river estuary or, perhaps a coastal location.