Robert Dowling


Launceston in 1838, when Robert Dowling was a boy (AOT, PH30/1/2171)

Robert Hawker Dowling (182786), artist, migrated from England in 1834. His father was Launceston's first Baptist minister, closely involved with reformist movements such as anti-transportation. Robert demonstrated artistic potential, and in 1850 launched himself as a 'portrait-painter and miniaturist', also advertising drawing classes. Locals subscribed money and Dowling studied in London from 1857, with sixteen paintings hung in Royal Academy exhibitions. He maintained his links to Tasmania, and presented his large composition, 'Group of natives of Tasmania', to Launceston in 1860. Other poignant compositions reflecting his colonial experience include 'Early efforts: art in Australia' (c 1860), where a small boy (presumably Dowling himself) paints outdoors, with a group of Aborigines standing behind, still and in shadow. Dowling returned to Australia in 1884, settling in Melbourne. His reputation was high and major commissions ensued.

Lindsay Broughton