Portrait of Sir Richard Dry

 
Speaker Legislative Council 1851 - 1854
Tasmanian Premier 1866 - 1869
 
Richard Dry [1815-1869] was an appointed Member of the Legislative Council from 1844 until he resigned in 1845 as a one of 'Patriotic Six' because of his strong anti-transportationist believes. He was reappointed an MLC in 1847, and contested the first election for the Council in 1851, holding his seat until 1855. Throughout this period he was Speaker of the Legislative Council, and he was later made Tasmania's first Knight in 1858. During another parliamentary term from 1862-1869 he became the first Tasmanian born Premier of Tasmania from November 1866-August 1869.

His tenure as Speaker of the Legislative Council from 30 December 1851 was terminated prematurely because of ill health in 1854. Partly as a result of an earlier horse-riding accident he was forced to 'temporarily' resign, which he did on 6 November 1854. The Governor accepted this letter on 10 November, although the Parliament was not to meet until July 1855. Therefore the resignation was announced on 17 July and Captain Michael Fenton was duly elected to fill the vacancy.

Thomas Chapman immediately moved an Address expressing the 'sincere regret' of all MLC's and the people of VDL, and asked that 'as a lasting memorial of one whom we entertain so much esteem and respect we request that you will present us with your portrait.' Six months later on 26 January 1856 Dry wrote to the Council with 'profound gratitude' for the sentiments expressed in the Address, and advised that Hobart-based artist Conway Weston Hart had a 'full length portrait of life size' ready for collection.

Conway Weston Hart - apparently associated with the London Royal Academy x arrived in Australia in the 1840s.  He intermittently worked in Melbourne and from studios in Hobart (1854) and Launceston (1857). While in Tasmania he painted several local portraits, including Mary Morton Allport and Ayde Douglas. The latter's fine portrait hangs in Parliament House, in part because he was Tasmanian Premier (1884-86). By 1860 Hart had returned to Melbourne, later dying while in India in 1861.


 


Sir Richard Dry

by Conway Hart


 


Dry's Portrait in the

House of Assembly

This magnificent painting, which features the Speaker's Chair, cost Sir Richard £300 and he graciously donated it to the Parliament. On 29 January Thomas Chapman further moved for it to be '.framed and placed in a suitable position in the Council chamber.'. Therefore, Hood and Co. (of Hobart) ornately framed the painting. The Colonial Times attributes this work, described as 'the finest picture frame ever produced in the colony' to Major Hood, a 'native of Tasmania'. It has since been determined that his relative Robin Lloyd Hood,  created the masterpiece, for the sum of 65 pounds. This is confirmed by Robin L. Hood's account presented and paid in June 1856.

On the 24 April 1856  the Colonial Times reported that the newly framed work, with 'full and rich corners of Victoria gold beaten out by Mr Hood, had been 'suspended in the Council Chamber, at the southern side'. From that date it has hung in the 'Long Room' of the House of Assembly, where Dry's early parliamentary career took place.

In mid-1859, upon close inspection of Dry's portrait it was discovered that it  had never been varnished. Therefore, in a letter dated, 15 June 1859, it was considered that it was now 'unquestionably desirable' that it 'undergo that process'. While no further detail exists on this task, the work was indeed done, because, as is common with many oil paintings, varnish cracks are detectable today - even following subsequent restoration work.

The portrait has moved from its original position. It was relocated from the 'southern side' to the 'eastern side' of the room in 1872, and to protect it from exposure to excessive light a dark cloth or curtain was draped over it at a minimal cost of £3. For further protection extra ropes and brackets were added to it in 1904 to ensure that it remained safely on display. Finally, the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Launceston hold a smaller version of this fine portrait.