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 History Controversy adds Intrigue to Colonial Art Exhibition


 Fresh Original Research into the Colonial Artist S. T. Gill



 IMAGE: S.T. Gill, artist, Hamel & Ferguson, printer, Title page: The Australian Sketchbook by S.T.G 1864, colour lithograph, State Library Victoria, Accession no(s) H17158.


S. T. Gill (STG)


A controversy is brewing in historical circles over the true identity of Australian colonial artist Samuel Thomas GILL (1818 – 1880). Recently it has overflowed into mainstream media. The controversy impacts on several interests of mine: colonial newspapers, NLA’s Trove and tracing elusive 19th century characters.


It is thought that Samuel Thomas Gill (STG) migrated with his family to South Australia. But recently, author Babette Smith has thrown a chock in the treadmill. She claims her research points to Gill being an absconded convict. And for Gill to reunite with his parents and siblings, he needed a trail of “evidence” to substantiate his free settler status. Smith’s “convict Gill” was a forger – a perfect background for an artistic career as well as for faking a “back story.”


I think if Smith’s theory is right, it would not diminish our esteem for STG, but magnify our view of his clever, creative talent.


I look into the controversy and shine further light on the colonial artist S. T. Gill with some fresh research. I’m doing this one episode at a time and I’m not sure exactly where I’ll end up. Will you follow me? See me on Twitter.


See the exhibition Australian Sketchbook: Colonial Life and the Art of S.T. Gill, at the National Library of Australia (NLA), Canberra, 29 June - 16 October 2016.



  1. The Controversy

  2. Why is the Sun Shining from the South?

  3. Alibis and Mystery

  4. Sunshine and Dating (Rundle Street)

  5. 10 August 1844

  6. Are They Still Following Me?

  7. Gill’s Newfoundland Dog

  8. A Mystery of Provenance

  9. Man Dead! News Murdered!!

  10. More to Reveal …


CITE THIS: David Coombe, 2016, S. T. Gill (STG), accessed dd mmm yyyy, <>



 #STGill #AustralianSketchbook #HistoryAU #ozhist