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Heroes and villains: Strutt's Australia

Discover the stunning artistry of William Strutt, who captured the brutal fury of the Australian landscape alongside the human drama of colonial life.

William Strutt, Black Thursday, February 6th, 1851 (detail), 1864, oil on canvas, State Library Victoria
14 July 201623 October 2016

Relive Melbourne's golden age, when Victoria became a separate colony, gold was discovered, bushrangers roamed and explorers launched bold expeditions into the Australian interior. These dramatic transformations were captured in the stunning artistry of William Strutt (1825–1915), whose work encompasses the brutal fury of the Australian landscape and the human drama of life in the mid-19th century.

Strutt was a superb draughtsman and renderer of the human figure, whose ability to compose complex dramatic scenes is witnessed in large narrative works such as Black Thursday, February 6th, 1851 and The burial of Burke. The oil paintings, watercolours, portraits, prints, preparatory sketches and large-scale history paintings featured in the exhibition provide an unparalleled visual record of the hazards and hardships of colonial life, and demonstrate the meticulous approach of an academically trained artist.

This free exhibition brings together significant works from the extensive collections of State Library Victoria, the National Library of Australia and other major Australian collections.

The first retrospective of Strutt's work to be shown in Melbourne, the exhibition is curated by Matthew Jones, a curator in the Exhibitions Branch at the National Library of Australia, where he has co-curated The Life of Patrick White and displays in the Treasures Gallery, the Library's permanent exhibition space.

Heroes and villains: Strutt's Australia is on display in the Keith Murdoch Gallery, open from 10am to 5pm daily and open until 9pm on Thursdays (with the exception of the final week, see details below). To explore the exhibition further, visit the exhibition page.

Presented in partnership with the National Library of Australia.

Opening hours during final week

Please note that Heroes and villains will be open for extended hours during its final week, with the exception of Thursday 20 October, when it will close early. 

  • Monday 17 to Wednesday 19 October: open until 9pm
  • Thursday 20 October: closing at 5pm
  • Friday 21 to Sunday 23 October: open until 6pm

Presenting partner

Supporting partners