First Fleet commander on display at Victoria Gallery

The Victoria Art Gallery – run by Bath & North East Somerset Council – is to display Francis Wheatley’s portrait of Admiral Arthur Phillip, on loan from the National Portrait Gallery, from Wednesday 26 March for 12 months.

 Francis Wheatley's portrait of Arthur Phillip 1786.
Francis Wheatley’s portrait of Arthur Phillip 1786.

Phillip spent his whole career in the Royal Navy, as an officer and – as some would have it – a naval spy. After many campaigns and expeditions, he landed the so-called ‘First Fleet’ of eleven ships in Australia at Port Jackson in January 1788 where he established a convict settlement, which later became the city of Sydney.

As the first Governor of New South Wales, Admiral Phillip (1738-1814), is regarded as the founder of modern Australia. He retired in 1805 to a house in Bennett Street, Bath. The loan of the portrait marks the bicentenary of his death and his close connections with the Bath area. His grave is located at St Nicholas Church in Bathampton.

Councillor Ben Stevens (Lib-Dem, Widcombe), Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development, said: “Bath & North East Somerset Council is proud to commemorate Admiral Phillip’s bicentenarywith this marvellous portrait at the Victoria Art Gallery. Admiral Phillip may not be so well-known in the UK but is a household name in Australia as the founder and first Governor of New South Wales and, informally, the ‘father of Australia’.”

The loan of the painting from the National Portrait Gallery has been made possible by the provision of insurance through the Government Indemnity Scheme. Bath & North East Somerset Council would like to thank HM Government for providing Government Indemnity and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Arts Council England for arranging the indemnity.