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Exiles and Emigrants: Epic Journeys to Australia in the Victorian Era

Exiles and Emigrants

Exiles and Emigrants: Epic Journeys to Australia in the Victorian Era told the emotional stories of the greatest diaspora in Western history and was the first time art and objects produced in the reign of Queen Victoria were used to tell the story of the unprecedented exodus of almost 15 million people from Britain between 1837 and 1901.

An extraordinary chapter of Australian history

During the reign of Queen Victoria (1837 - 1901) almost 15 million people left the British Isles in search of a better life. Exiles and Emigrants was the first art exhibition to focus on the issue of emigration during this extraordinary chapter of Australian history. 

John Charles Dollman, England 1851-1934 'The Immigrants' Ship' 1884. Oil on canvas. 110.0 x 162.5 cm. Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide. Transferred from the Office of the Agent-General for South Australia, London 1979.

This powerful exhibition traced the various reasons that drove people from their homeland: the devastating potato famine in Ireland; the highland clearances in Scotland; and the agrarian revolution in England.

It also explored the stories of the emigrants, their long, difficult voyage to a faraway land and their struggles to settle in the harsh, often unforgiving Australian climate.

The exhibition included fascinating objects and major works drawn from public and private collections in the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, United States of America and Australia.

Of exceptional note was the loan of The Last of England by Ford Madox Brown, a masterpiece of the Pre-Raphaelite movement and arguably the most important image of emigration ever painted.

It represents the sculptor Thomas Woolner, his wife and child leaving England en route to Melbourne in 1852. This work was voted one of Britain's favourite works, in a special poll conducted by the BBC.

National Gallery of Victoria

Exiles and Emigrants: Epic Journeys to Australia in the Victorian Era,
was a National Gallery of Victoria touring exhibition.

The exhibition was on show at the National Museum of Australia from 21 April to 4 June 2006 in the Temporary Exhibition Gallery.


The exhibition was generously supported by Tattersall's. Qantas was the support sponsor.

Generously supported by




Support sponsor


Banner image: Ford Madox Brown The Last of England 1855 (detail). Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham. Purchased 1891.