Edward Roper (1830 – 1909)


Edward Roper was born in 1830 and was a consummate traveller, visiting Canada and Australia. He was a writer as well as a painter, lithographer, and illustrator and died in the early twentieth century. Not much is known of him or his artistic output, but we know he travelled to Australia on several occasions from around 1857 and continued to do so for 20 years.

It seems he spent an extended amount of time concentrating his artistic output around the Ararat region, (particularly in and around the Grampians) and produced other paintings in a similar style to the one held in the Benalla Art Gallery Collection. He enjoyed depicting the Australian landscape and made many pictures showing native animals in context within the Australian bush.  In ‘After the Flying Doe’, the artist depicts a rider on horseback charging through the Australian bush, during perhaps either early morning or late afternoon, startling a mob of kangaroos. There is a sense of adventure in the narrative playing out in front of us, evocative of European fox hunting imagery. It is not certain whether the rider is a hunter or simply bolting across the paddock, but regardless the kangaroos aren’t having any of it, with all heading off at great pace.

Many other examples of the artist’s work depict similar action scenes. Roper clearly enjoyed showing the spirit of the bush – the undulating hills and craggy eucalypts where one could spot a soaring falcon, or a mob of roos. The tones used in the palette of this work are consistent with other works by the artist – soft lines and paintwork lending a dream-like essence to the scenery as if we are viewing this scene through a soft focus lens.

Roper worked with different media including watercolour, ink and wash, and his approach in this work shows his illustrator training.

Image: Edward Roper, After the flying doe (not dated)

watercolour on paper

24 x 48.5 cm

Benalla Art Gallery Collection. Ledger Gift, 1985

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