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Adelaide Ironside

Adelaide Ironside was said to be the first Australian artist to study abroad.

Honour Roll

Adelaide Ironside was born in Sydney on 17 November 1831. Her father, James Ironside, was a commission agent and she was educated, including artistically, by her mother, Martha Rebecca (nee Redman). Adelaide wrote patriotic prose and verse for the Sydney press and in 1855 designed a large banner for the First Volunteer Artillery Company of New South Wales. She also exhibited at the 1854 preparatory Australian Museum Exhibition for the Paris Universal Exhibition.

The next year her 'Drawings of native wild flowers' received honourable mentions in Paris. In 1855, Adelaide sailed with her mother to Europe to study art and met painter Joseph Severn and critic John Ruskin. In 1856, she set up in Rome and after many difficulties established a reputation with a large oil painting 'The Pilgrim of Art, Crowned by the Genius of Art' (1859). The 'pilgrim' in the painting was Adelaide herself, while the 'genius of art' was a portrait of her mother. In 1861, a private audience with Pope Pius IX enabled her to study in Perugia and to copy works in the papal collections. In 1862, her oil painting 'The Marriage at Cana in Gallilee' was exhibited in the London International Exhibition, in the New South Wales court, while 'The Pilgrim of Art' was shown in the Rome court. In the same year, she became a member of the Accademia dei Quiriti in Rome and was awarded its diploma. Adelaide died in Rome, of tuberculosis in 1867.

Although she gained recognition for her work in Italy and England, she was never popular in Australia. Her ambition to fresco the walls of the Great Hall of the University of Sydney was never fulfilled. Her surviving works are mainly portraits. Throughout her life, Adelaide remained a committed republican and held anti-papal views - in her oil painting 'The Marriage at Cana' she modelled the heads of both Christ and the bridegroom on Garibaldi.