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Oil portrait of 'Robert' the prize-winning bantam

Kilree poultry stud

An oil painting featuring a hard feathered bantam rooster. The painting is framed in a black wooden frame with glass over the top. There are eight medals mounted underneath the painting.
Oil portrait of ‘Robert’, 1922. National Museum of Australia.

'Robert' was a prize-winning Modern Game bantam cockerel owned by third-generation poultry-fancier Cecil Robert Thompson. A striking oil portrait of Robert is now in the Museum's collection.

Signed 'S. Thomson 1922', it shows 'Robert', about life-size, at 40 centimetres tall, clearly exhibiting the characteristics of his breed.

In 1902, at the age of 14, Thompson began exhibiting birds at shows near his home in Goulburn, New South Wales. He served in India and on the Western Front with the 10th Hussars before establishing his poultry stud, Kilree, at Goulburn, in about 1920.

Thompson became a respected breeder, exhibitor, importer and judge of poultry, and many of today's Australian Modern Game bloodlines trace their heritage to Kilree.

Modern Game bantams

In the Australasian Book of Poultry, AJ Compton described the Modern Game bird as having 'a most aristocratic appearance – reach, style and proportion, with the brightest and most lustrous plumage, forming a combination difficult to surpass'.

Bred from introduced Malay crosses, the Modern Game emerged in Britain during the mid-19th century, following the ban on cockfighting. The breed's long legs and 'snake head' signal its fighting origins, while broad shoulders, short wings and neatly held feathers became standards as the Modern Game was developed as an exhibition bird.

'A bird of extreme excellence'

This quote is from an article in the Goulburn Evening Penny Post about Robert, published 1921. The portrait, now in the Museum's collection, was painted the following year and is framed together with eight prize medals, won by Thompson's fowls at competitions in Sydney, Melbourne and Goulburn between 1924 and 1948.

Robert was awarded the small medal in the centre for 'Best Bird in Show' at the Old Goulburn Poultry, Pigeon and Canary Club's annual show of 1924, when Thompson's stud was dominating competitions across eastern Australia. The painting was once part of a large collection of trophies proudly displayed in Thompson's home, before the Museum purchased it at auction in 2012.

A compilation of two images - a portrait of a bird and a silver medal dated 1924.
Left: oil portrait of ‘Robert’, with eight prize medals, 1922–48. Right: ‘Best Bird in Show’ medal awarded to Cecil Thompson for ‘Robert’, at the Old Goulburn Poultry, Pigeon and Canary Club’s annual show, 1924. National Museum of Australia.