Thomas Griffiths Wainewright

Thomas Griffiths Wainewright (17941847), artist. Born in London, Wainewright was apprenticed to a portrait painter and exhibited historical/romantic compositions, contributed literary and artistic articles to journals, and moved in elite artistic and social circles; but his financial needs exceeded his means, and he forged signatures to gain possession of his capital. Three mysterious deaths benefited him financially. Convicted of forgery, he was transported to Hobart, arriving in 1837. He worked in a chain gang and the Hobart hospital, gained a ticket-of-leave in 1845 and undertook numerous portrait commissions, but died in 1847. His known Tasmanian art consists of small portraits in pencil, watercolour, chalk and Chinese White. The quality varied, possibly in tune with his declining health. In some the draughtsmanship is strong, yet the handling delicate and the expression sensitively realised. His story attracted many authors, from Dickens onwards.

Further reading: C Dickens, Hunted down, London, 1870; R Crossland, Wainewright in Tasmania, Melbourne, 1954; H Porter, The tilted cross, London, 1961; A Motion, Wainewright the poisoner, London, 2000.

Lindsay Broughton