Miniature portraits


Recently I had an interesting discussion with a friend when I talked about miniature portraits – his response was ‘Isn’t that a tautology, surely ALL miniatures are portraits?’ So, the simple answer was no, modern miniatures can be any kind of subject matter and any medium – landscape, still life, abstract and sculpture to name a few.

The annual awards exhibition for the miniature society is coming up in June, so I have been thinking in miniature. Every year as well as prizes for each media section there is a special prize for a themed artwork. This time it is Australian Icon. I have to admit my heart sank when I heard this – I can imagine a mass of Sydney Harbour Bridges, Opera Houses, cockatoos, Dame Edna Everage, Don Bradman. The idea did not inspire me. So I decided to think laterally, to  people who maybe should be an icon but are not so well-known, and it seemed obvious to choose an Aboriginal person. The two above are long dead, and the likenesses extracted from old photos. I have not been too fussy about copying photos exactly, it was more about getting the essence of the person.

On the left is Truganini, reputed to be the last female full-blood Aborigine from Tasmania, who died in 1876, and on the right is William Lanne, died in 1869, said to be the last male full-blood from Tasmania. His original name has been lost. For both of them, their stories are tragic, of exploitation, harsh treatment and ultimately the deep humiliation after death, for William at least, of having his head stolen for ‘scientific purposes’. Truganini’s skeleton was put on view in a museum for nearly 100 years until finally it was removed and cremated according to her wishes in 1976.

Truganini is drawn with coloured pencils on drafting film, and William is on white scratchboard. The form was drawn with black ink, then the detail scratched away.

When matted and framed, Truganini will be 6.5 x 8 cm and William will be 8 x 9 cm.

Author: anna warren portfolio

I draw, I paint, I am a printmaker. Always searching for the interesting detail in the world around me.

14 thoughts

  1. Did you enlarge the images, Anna? On returning today, I feel I can see them better than when I first looked last night. It would be good if you could have a paragraph on each of these when they are on display – as I (in my ignorance) didn’t know about either of these people. One wants to look for longer when one has a bit of background knowledge.
    They are both thought-provoking drawings and (wow) small doesn’t mean weak in any way does it?! They are both powerful even though tiny! I don’t know how you do it. I like how Truganini confronts the viewer with her gaze. She looks very kind. William Lanne looks defiant and refuses to meet our eyes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. No, I haven’t enlarged the images – I have tried to keep them as close to actual size as possible, but they will vary quite a bit according to the different devices people see them on. I usually don’t like to enlarge my miniatures as the flaws become very clear, but when I enlarged these to make sure they were in focus I did think they held up ok. I feel they both look so sad, probably not something that would endear them, but I’m glad you see kindness in Truganini. She actually had a better life than William, he was only 34 when he died, from imported disease – I’m quite pleased he looks defiant! Its a good idea to have a bit of a history with each of them, to explain why I chose them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. wow i had read this Truganini story and inspired me a lot, what it must have been the last pure blood of a race, i will do a sketch of her too and you can check it out, follow for follow.


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